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The New Discoveries at Blick Mead: the Key to the Stonehenge Landscape
An archaeological team from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute has been uncovering very large amounts of Mesolithic material from a site immediately adjacent to Stonehenge. At a point called Blick Mead (a part of the Stonehenge landscape known as ‘Vespasian’s Camp’ on the mistaken assumption that it was the remains of a former Roman settlement) around 12,000 pieces of worked flint and burnt flint have been unearthed, as well as over 500 pieces of bone dating from over 8,000 years ago. Virtually all the tools are in pristine condition – indeed, some of the team have had their fingers cut by them as they are still so sharp.
The most significant consequence of the excavation is that we have now discovered where the communities who built the first monuments at Stonehenge once lived – something that has eluded archaeologists for the best part of two centuries. But the fact that the site also provides evidence for ritual activity in later periods suggests that the Buckingham team has also discovered a rare ‘multi-phase’ site, which was occupied over several millennia – indeed into the early medieval period.
David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, has been directing the excavations at Vespasian’s Camp, Amesbury, Wiltshire, since 2005.
The archaeological potential of Vespasian’s Camp first came to light as a result of David Jacques’ detailed research of the site’s estate and nearby farm records. Indeed, before his team started their excavations, there was no evidence of Vespasian’s Camp having played any significant part in the Salisbury Plain ritual landscape or its history, and the site had been generally ignored by archaeologists, who assumed that any archaeological evidence on the site had been destroyed in the course of the landscaping of the area as a park for a neighbouring country house during the course of the 18th century.
Radiocarbon dating of objects from the Buckingham-sponsored excavations now shows that this site was occupied between 7550-4700 BC, which means that the Blick Mead site was in continuous use for almost 3,000 years.
This is generating great interest from archaeologists who have long pondered the possibility of a ‘missing link’ between the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods of activity at Stonehenge. The radiocarbon dates make this the oldest ever ‘homebase’ found in the Stonehenge area and could be one of the reasons why Stonehenge is sited where it is.
The findings produced by the Buckingham-funded excavations have led English Heritage to describe Vespasian’s Camp as potentially ‘one of the pivotal places in the history of the Stonehenge landscape’.
The 7500 BC dating of Blick Mead correlates strongly with the enigmatic posts found underneath Stonehenge car park in the late 1960s, which appear to be marking this area up as somewhere of special cultural significance
A copper alloy Bronze Age dagger, found nearby, at the Bluestonehenge monument in 2009, a 5th-century Anglo-Saxon disc brooch from a nearby spring, and medieval wooden staves from the main spring also connect Blick Mead to the early Anglo-Saxon and Amesbury Abbey periods. They add to the picture of the Blick Mead area being a place associated with veneration over the longue durée.
As a result of the support from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, further work is planned over the next two years.