Blue plastic sheeting covers one pit - the other lies under the light coloured patch of chalkIt's an opening in the grass meadow on the Durrington Walls henge about seven metres by six metres and cut at the beginning of the week - and already it is revealing intriguing evidence.
While Marlborough.News was at the site on day two of the dig, the archaeologists announced they had found the floor of a Neolithic house.
That discovery is just a by-product of this excavation. The real aim is to investigate two of the two hundred and more mysterious 'anomalies' lying beneath the 4,500 year-old bank at Durrington Walls which were revealed by recent geo-physical surveys led by Professor Vince Gaffney using ground penetrating radar and other technologies.
One school of thought was that they were the remains of old standing stones. Had this been the case it would have radically changed our views of the whole Stonehenge complex.
The alternative theory - held by Professor Mike Parker Pearson - was that they might be pits dug to hold giant wooden posts - but then filled in again when there was a change of plan.
It is now certain that the Parker Pearson theory is right. They have found two pits, which had been sunk before the bank was built. And so far they have found no signs of old or broken up standing stones.
One pit has been partly excavated - and may never have held a post. Work on the other one and a nearby heap of spoil probably dug from one of the pits, is still going on. This second pit may have once held a post that decayed in situ.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson told Marlborough.News about the pits which were made to take huge wooden poles standing about twenty feet above the surface: "Each pit has a vertical shaft and a ramp to guide the huge post into the hole - it would then be raised and packed with flints and chalk. But here no posts were put in - the holes were filled in with soft material - loose soil and wood ash."
Prof Parker Pearson takes a pickaxe to the upper layers of chalk The house floor with traces of burnt material & - top left - the covered pit Prof Parker Pearson getting down to some finer work
He believes there was a bit of what he laughingly calls "Neolithic managerial incompetence" in deciding to commemorate the site with timber posts: "Wooden posts would have lasted about 150 years. They wanted something that would last for ever - so they changed their plan and built the bank. That's a real statement of memory and commemoration - and authority."
He points out that organising the building of Stonehenge, its associated sites like the giant cursus and Durrington henge involved a huge number of people. He reckons 600 people were involved in making the Durrington post holes and 4,000 in building the bank - that needs 'authority' and organisation.
Prof Vince Gaffney & National Trust's Dr Nick Snashall Probably a Neolithic spoil heap Bones exposed
Apart from the pits, finds so far include part of the floor of that Neolithic house with a chalk plaster floor and traces of its hearth, an antler tine that may have been part of an antler pick, a piece of pottery and some fairly large bones.
The excavation continues until Thursday (August 11.)
This past week MPs have told BT (July 19) that it must spend much, much more on the broadband infrastructure - and that this monopoly company risks being broken up if it does not invest enough.
Reports of the House of Commons committee's decisions mentioned that parts of Britain were 'superfast' while large parts remained 'superslow' - and many of those parts are rural.
BT's week got worse when many of its customers lost internet after a power failure at one of its providers - perhaps another example of lack of appropriate investment.
The failure to keep the country in the EU will eventually - one assumes - mean that government ministers will not have the excuse of EU competition rules to stop them putting our money into companies' coffers when they are threatened with closure and job losses - or fail to provide a proper service.
Could this, in turn, lead finally to fully funding of British Telecom's infrastructure and provide twenty-first century broadband services across the country and especially to rural areas? And pigs might....
But, ever hopeful, here is a story told to Marlborough.News by a friendly Wiltshire householder. It should embarrass the present government, BT and Wiltshire Council. The latter's use of millions of council tax pounds has failed to improve promised broadband speeds even across its own so-called 'intervention zone':
"I thought my iPad was having a turn. It was suddenly producing amazing download speeds - I could hardly keep up. In case I was hallucinating, I checked. The checker read 15.25Mbit/s. Impossible. I checked again. Wow!"
Will BT's Openreach eventually be split off"I was not, of course at home in rural Wiltshire - where the download speed to my iPad sometimes creeps just over the 2Mbit/s mark. I live about 6kms from the nearest telephone exchange."
"I was in very rural France. In Lower Normandy. I was in a settlement of four homes - hardly even a 'hamlet' - and 100 metres from what my map calls an 'other road'."
"The nearest village is 1.5kms away and has a population of 211. The nearest town (9 kms away) has a population of 2,532 (about half the size of Pewsey - though boasting a very fine chateau.) The nearest town even approaching Marlborough's size is 16kms away."
"When the English owner of the house I was staying in bought it as a ruined property in 2010, he asked France Telecom (now Orange SA) for phone services. The very next day a man arrived offering a survey for 75 euros. 'Yes, please!' "
"Three days later two young men arrived and strung a line down from the road on new poles - all at no extra cost. He now pays 36 euros a month for his broadband, all mobile and land-line calls within France and land-line calls to about 100 overseas countries. And he has a download speed on his laptop that hovers around 20Mbit/s."
"Last winter, the house owner told me, a major storm knocked out his service for 48 hours and he was offered - repeat offered - a month's free service."
That is some story - all of it true. Last year a group of Marlborough residents moved into newly built houses in the centre of the town and had to wait thirteen weeks to be connected by BT.
Delivery of fast broadband speeds is - repeat is - possible even in rural areas. It must be that BT - with the connivance of government and council - cannot be bothered.
What's the difference between Orange SA and BT? The French government still owns about a quarter of the shares in Orange SA. The British government sold its last shares in BT in 1993 and BT is now totally beholden to its shareholders.
Or may be it's simply that Britain's much-vaunted engineering and digital skills are not all they are cracked up to be.
See Broadband Part Two - for alternative delivery options.
A dish for broadband via satelliteOur last government - that's the one led by Mr Cameron - put forward a scheme to get the last five per cent of homes onto superfast broadband.
It was announced in the Queen's Speech in May as giving 'a legal right to high-speed broadband'. But this 'legal right' included the government's right to ask users for a contribution if costs were too high. And it might rest on vouchers that do not cover ongoing costs that will be higher than those for high-speed broadband by fibre optic cable.
Still, as far the politicians were concerned this solved their problem. Whether it will survive government changes and the introduction of an 'industrial strategy' remains to be seen. Politically May was a long time ago.
There are people who work from home in the Marlborough area whose low broadband speeds via BT lines impact so disastrously on their work that they have already taken the plunge and tried alternative means of broadband delivery.
Here are two examples - we will return later to the fact that a BT fibre optic cable runs right past their front gates.
First stop is a person working for a company relying on international reach who needs to use multi-point Skype-type conference calls via a WebEx on-line meetings system. Via BT's broadband this was "simply hopeless". He also needs to be able to download large spread-sheets and contracts.
His broadband speed prevented him working as his job demanded.
So he is trying 4G. Via a roof aerial, he gets download speeds of between 10 and 15Mbits/s and upload speeds of 10. This is viable - but it does not like rain: "To be accurate the system is reliable for around 95 per cent of the time we need it."
"We suffer reduced speeds down to about 1mb/sec for around 4 per cent of the time and occasional complete loss for very short periods - with heavy rain. Most problems are solved with a reboot of the router. Incidentally, 1mb/sec is about what we were getting from BT 100 per cent of the time!"
Having paid £300 + VAT for gear, the cost of this is £25 + VAT per month for 25 gigabytes of download: "25Gb is plenty of data for our four employee business. It wouldn’t suffice if the family were using the system for movies etc., but for the business use it’s plenty."
Improved internet speed means he can rely on VOIP (Voice over internet protocol): "This operates via our internet and serves as our company telephone system. Using VOIP you can dispense with the BT phone lines - a major cost saving. The telephone number is completely portable - so if you’re in Marlborough, Wiltshire on Monday and Marlborough, Massachusetts on Wednesday, your 01672 number is the same."
He is pleased he turned to 4G: "We’re about six months in and will likely retain the 4G based system until we can get fibre or some other solution presents itself."
...but not in the rural area where our two examples live Our second example lives not too far away and has chosen to go the broadband-by-satellite route. He sees the problem like this: "We live in a rural place and have all the benefits of the countryside, but we are poor in our mobile 'phone service as well as in broadband."
His solution involves a satellite dish and a contract with a commercial provider. The problem is that the service relies on the amount of space on the satellite transponder that the provider has bought and how many people are using the service at any one time.
This means the system has what is called a problem of 'contention' - a conflict over access to what is in effect a shared resource. In simple terms, when too many people are logged on, you can get a sharp dip in the broadband speed.
Our satellite-broadband user finds that he sometimes gets "...a very poor service": at 3.00am he can get 28Mbits/s. At 6.00pm - when everyone has got home and switched on their computers - it can be back to BT speeds of +/- 2Mbits/s.
BT's travelling sales pitch...He is paying £69 per month - and during the first year of his contract paid an extra £10 per month for equipment and installation costs. He could buy a more expensive 'Business package' which would give him priority when there is a contention issue on the service.
He sums up his experience: "It is not consistent. On bad weather days we get poor service and when lots of people are viewing it gets worse still."
Both these people are working from home. Both live beside a main road and along that road runs a BT fibre optic cable. Breaking into a fibre optic cable of this sort costs is a complicated technical exercise - it is said to cost £17,000.
However, no one from Wiltshire Council has contacted these two people - or others living nearby - to ask whether they might like to pay towards using this cable for a high-speed broadband service for them and for their neighbours.
Both live in the Council's so-called broadband 'intervention zone' and both had asked for high speed broadband when the Council's scheme was launched. Perhaps the new government will pay for accessing that fibre optic cable running so temptingly close to their homes.