Bournemouth University

School of Conservation Sciences

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BU Archaeologists Aid Stonehenge Discovery

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Stonehenge BU Archaeologists Aid Stonehenge Discovery  

Archaeologists from Bournemouth University played an integral part in the discovery of a large settlement at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge, confirming the scale of human activity in and around the ancient monument.

Dr Kate Welham, from the University’s School of Conservation Sciences, is one of six project directors of The Stonehenge Riverside Project, which has received funding from a number of organisations including the Arts and Humanities Research Council and National Geographic Society.

Dr Welham, together with English Heritage, and colleagues and students from Bournemouth, performed a wide scale geophysical survey of Durrington Walls - the world’s largest known henge – and the surrounding landscape within two miles of Stonehenge.

“Durrington Walls covers a large area around 450 meters across and encloses a series of concentric rings of huge timber posts with a bank outside of the enclosure and a ditch inside,” says Dr Welham. “Our survey was instrumental in enabling our colleagues to better understand the site and establish the size of the structures later unearthed by our colleagues.”

The five-year Stonehenge Riverside Project is run by the universities of Bournemouth, Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol and University College London.

The excavations at Durrington Walls reveal an ancient settlement that once housed hundreds of people. Archaeologists believe the houses were constructed and occupied by the builders of nearby Stonehenge, the legendary monument on Salisbury Plain. The houses have been radiocarbon dated to 2600-2500 B.C., the same period Stonehenge was built — one of the facts that leads the archaeologists to conclude that the people who lived in the Durrington Walls houses were responsible for constructing Stonehenge. The houses form the largest Neolithic or new Stone Age village ever found in Britain.

Dr Welham is particularly pleased that Bournemouth University’s involvement has lead to such an important discovery.

“Our expertise in geophysics combined with our excellent field resources are integral to the long-term success of the project,” says Dr Welham. “Perhaps, more importantly, we are able to use this project to give our students invaluable field experience on a World Heritage Site. What better opportunity to have than to work on the best known archaeological monument in the world?”