Stonehenge Riverside Project: 2007 Excavation III

The timber monuments south of Woodhenge

Two large trenches were excavated here, the northern one to investigate a parchmark feature southeast of Durrington 70 round barrow, and the southern one to re-examine the Late Neolithic timber building beneath Durrington 68 round barrow. This structure had been excavated in 1928 and yielded Grooved Ware and animal bone as well as a single cremation burial from one of its two entrance pits.

Durrington 68

The Durrington 68 structure was a square setting of four large postholes 1.6m deep, surrounded by a sub-rectangular palisade whose entrance at the southeast end was marked by two 1m-deep pits. Re-excavation in 2007 demonstrated that these pits were later than the palisade and may have served as `closing deposits´ similar to those found within each of the houses excavated at Durrington Walls. It is unlikely that this structure ever had a roof. The postholes of the palisade (holding posts likely to be 2m high) and of the four-poster (with posts likely to be 9m or higher) were too close together for this to be feasible. Preliminary observations of this building´s orientation demonstrate that it was aligned on the midwinter solstice sunrise.

The Durrington 70 structure was a rectangular setting of six postholes. Of the two eastern postholes, one contained single sherds of Beaker and Peterborough Ware pottery and the other contained a small piece of burnt daub with its surface still surviving. The post pipes were visible within each of the building´s postholes and these appear to have been left to rot in situ. The building faced east but not to any direction of likely calendrical significance.

South of Durrington 68 there was the smallest of the three Late Neolithic post buildings. This was a four-poster, with each side broadly aligned on the cardinal points. Its posts had been robbed out.

Further south, a double ring ditch containing a Beaker burial (excavated in 1928) was surrounded by an unevenly spaced circle of large pits which intersected with the outer ring ditch. Several of these were excavated on the ditch´s north side and were found to have largely sterile fills. Where stratigraphic relationships survived between them and the outer ring ditch, they predated its digging. The pit on the east side contained a post pipe and there was a human tooth from its upper fill. Whilst this pit circle pre-dates the Beaker funerary monument, we cannot say whether it was shortly before or long before except that sufficient time elapsed for the pits to have silted up.

Later finds included a small Roman inhumation cemetery (including a decapitated burial) within Durrington 67 and a Middle Bronze Age dog burial within the upper silts of the ring ditch of Durrington 68.

The Grooved Ware pottery, flint tools and wood ash from pits beneath `Woodlands´ (Stone 1926) indicate that Late Neolithic activity continued further south along this chalk ridge beneath the modern houses and gardens of Countess Road. The timber structures – far bigger than ordinary houses – formed a line of ceremonial structures overlooking the River Avon immediately downstream from the Durrington avenue and no doubt any platforms on top of them would have provided dramatic views of the riverside.