Archaeologists back in the Vale of Pewsey: what might follow the boy with the amber necklace?

Written by Tony Millett on .

Bronze Age burial of teenage boyBronze Age burial of teenage boyThe boy with the amber necklace had lain under Pewsey Vale soil for thousands of years - until he was discovered last summer by archaeologists from Reading University.   Unearthing the teenager's Bronze Age burial place at the Wilsford henge was just one of the main achievements of their dig last year.

On Monday (June 27), Dr Jim Leary and his team start a major new, month-long dig in the Vale of Pewsey to unearth more about the Neolithic people who lived there 4,500 years ago.  And they hope to make many more significant finds.

Previous excavations at Marden uncovered an extraordinarily well-preserved Neolithic building surface, thought to be the base for a ceremonial ‘sweat lodge’, and some fine Stone Age artefacts, including a long-tailed flint arrowhead.  And last year's discovery at Wilsford of the Bronze Age burial has encouraged hopes for further major results from the digs.

This year the Reading team will be investigating previously unexplored parts of both Marden and Wilsford henges.   These excavations will mark the second year of a three-year project led by the University of Reading, in collaboration with Historic England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Wiltshire Museum.

Dr Jim Leary explaining the 2015 dig to visitorsDr Jim Leary explaining the 2015 dig to visitorsDr Jim Leary, from Reading University’s Department of Archaeology and Director of its Archaeology Field School, believes their work has already transformed knowledge about the Vale of Pewsey in prehistory:  “Relatively few archaeological digs have taken place here, particularly compared to the famous sites of Avebury and Stonehenge to the north and south, but it is likely to have been the heartland to the prehistoric communities living in this internationally important landscape."

“Marden henge is directly in between these two more famous monuments, and may well be the key to understanding them both.”

Built around 2400 BC, Marden is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain’s most important prehistoric monuments – though only a barely visible hump shows where the henge and its mound once stood.

The dig will not only focus on Neolithic archaeology, but use modern scientific methods to investigate the role of the Vale’s environment such as the River Avon on settlements in prehistoric, Roman, medieval and more recent periods.

The excavation is part of the Reading University's Archaeology Field School academic work with archaeology students from Reading and a global team of volunteers excavating within Marden henge for four weeks - from June 27 to July 23.

Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress between 10am and 5pm every day except Fridays.   Group visits must book in advance.  There will also be a chance for the public to visit the site at the Open Day on Saturday, July 16. 

The Field School website has all the details.

The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes has a special display featuring finds from Marden Henge, including a remarkable Neolithic flint arrowhead that was discovered last year. The Museum is running special tours including a Director’s tour of the Museum and a visit to the site. Find out more at their website.