Situated between the iconic prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is a barely explored archaeological region of huge international importance. The project will investigate Marden Henge. Built around 2400 BC ‘Marden' is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain's most important but least understood prehistoric monuments.
Excavation within the Henge will focus on the surface of a Neolithic building revealed during earlier excavations. The people who used this building will have seen Stonehenge in full swing, perhaps even helped to haul the huge stones upright.
Dr Jim Leary, from the University of Reading's Department of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeology Field School, said: "This excavation is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge and its surrounds. The Vale of Pewsey is a relatively untouched archaeological treasure-chest under the shadow of one of the wonders of the world.
"Why Stonehenge was built remains a mystery. How the giant stones were transported almost defy belief. It must have been an astonishing, perhaps frightening, sight. Using the latest survey, excavation and scientific techniques, the project will reveal priceless insight into the lives of those who witnessed its construction.
"Marden Henge is located on a line which connects Stonehenge and Avebury. This poses some fascinating questions. Were the three monuments competing against each other? Or were they used by the same communities but for different occasions and ceremonies? We hope to find out."
The Vale of Pewsey is not only rich in Neolithic archaeology. It is home to a variety of other fascinating historical monuments from various periods in history, including Roman settlements, a deserted medieval village and post-medieval water meadows. A suite of other investigations along the River Avon will explore the vital role of the Vale's environment throughout history.
Dr Leary continued: "One of the many wonderful opportunities this excavation presents is to reveal the secret of the Vale itself. Communities throughout time settled and thrived there - a key aim of the dig is to further our understanding of how the use of the landscape evolved - from prehistory to history."
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, added: "Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment."
The Vale of Pewsey excavation also marks the start of the new University of Reading Archaeology Field School. Previously run at the world-famous Roman town site of Silchester, the Field School will see archaeology students and enthusiasts from Reading and across the globe join the excavation.
The six week dig runs from 15th June to 25th July. Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 5pm. Groups must book in advance.
There will also be a chance for the public to visit the site at two exciting Open Days on Saturday 4th July and Saturday 18th July. To visit the excavation follow Sat Nav SN10 3RH.
The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site Management Plan 2015 was launched on 18 May 2015. This is the first joint Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Management Plan and replaces the Avebury WHS Management Plan 2005 and the Stonehenge WHS Management Plan 2009. It has been compiled by Sarah Simmonds (Avebury WHS Officer) and Beth Thomas (Stonehenge WHS Coordinator) of the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit based at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.
Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe - Nature Letter
We show that the populations of Western and Far Eastern Europe followed opposite trajectories between 8,000–5,000 years ago. At the beginning of the Neolithic period in Europe, ~8,000–7,000 years ago, closely related groups of early farmers appeared in Germany, Hungary and Spain, different from indigenous hunter-gatherers, whereas Russia was inhabited by a distinctive population of hunter-gatherers with high affinity to a ~24,000-year-old Siberian6. By ~6,000–5,000 years ago, farmers throughout much of Europe had more hunter-gatherer ancestry than their predecessors, but in Russia, the Yamnaya steppe herders of this time were descended not only from the preceding eastern European hunter-gatherers, but also from a population of Near Eastern ancestry. Western and Eastern Europe came into contact ~4,500 years ago, as the Late Neolithic Corded Ware people from Germany traced ~75% of their ancestry to the Yamnaya, documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery. This steppe ancestry persisted in all sampled central Europeans until at least ~3,000 years ago, and is ubiquitous in present-day Europeans. These results provide support for a steppe origin9 of at least some of the Indo-European languages of Europe.
Stone 16 is finely worked on the north eastern side, where it is on the side of the midwinter sunset alignment. The surface has been finely pecked to a smooth and straight surface, except for a nobble. This protrusion appears to have had its outer most part broken off but appears to have been deliberately left. It is just below head height.
I have no explanation for it and I try to avoid Pareidolia but it is reminiscent of a breast, or is that just me?