The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Fieldnotes by jimit

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 74 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

MOD Durrington (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

"This is one of the most confusing digs I have seen. Wessex Archaeology is still evaluating the meaning of the various excavations and finds, therefore any comments I make are entirely provisional! More of the site to the east will be excavated within the next year or two. With thanks to the WA guides."
(See plan for current details)

The site is on the cusp of the TMA remit being late IA early Romano/British. Neolithic artifacts have been found but so far no trace of any houses etc.
A large ditch and bank were constructed in a (assumed) square or rectangular shape and several parallel drainage (?) ditches led to the lowest part of the site. Another, smaller, ditch was constructed with an "entrance" to the W. Outside this 5 or 6 postholes have been found. They don't seem to suggest a building, might they have been "totemic" in function?

The most obvious features of the site are the numerous "quarry pits". There seems, at present, no obvious explanation for them. What were the inhabitants digging for? Clay, flints, gravel or sand are possibilities as they appear to follow "seams" and were backfilled as soon as they were exhausted as there is no sign of weathering. Geofiz seems to be of little use as the underlying geology brings up too many anomalies.

Some cremation deposits have been found within the perimeter of the site which suggests native customs as the Romans usually had separate cemeteries outside.

The area seems to have abandoned for a considerable time (100years?) but re-occupied in later Roman times.

The former MOD buildings to the E (hence the site name) are being removed and excavations will re-commence when the site is cleared, these may discover the main settlement.

The whole site is to be developed as a housing estate, Avon Fields.

Guided tour only. Consult Wessex Archaeology for details.

Silchester (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

With the risk of criticism from some quarters, I think that this site should be included as its early history certainly falls within the TMA remit.

The late IA town's defensive earthworks covered almost as much area as the later (and more famous) Roman town. They are best seen on the N side by the car park where the ditch and bank are well preserved.

The Atrebates who lived here were a sophisticated lot who traded extensively with the Roman Empire and their "Kings" minted coins to claim their authority.

Passing over the later period, which of course is of more interest to Romanophiles, we come to the problem of why it was abandoned.
It had great trade and road links, a fertile hinterland which was well watered and a presumably stable and integrated population. Why didn't it become another Winchester?
The later pages of the University of Reading's website addresses these problems.

For such a famous site the access and information is rather poor.Go slowly down the narrow roads as the signs suddenly spring up and the car park on the N is very easy to miss. There are pamphlets available there.

Stonehenge (Stone Circle)

I looked carefully at the weather forecast and decided that it might be a reasonable sunset at the (near) solstice.
There was a marquee in the car park with an exhibition about astromony with telescopes looking at the sunspots. Sheltering from the bitter Arctic wind, I got into a long and very interesting conversation with an archeaoastronomer (Simon Banton) about various alignments in the area.
(He reckons that when the new visitor centre is built with its twin "pavilons" the sun will appear to rise between them at some date in the year! A new legend in the making?)
Paid my entrance fee and joined about 15 other people by the Heel Stone. The sunset didn't disappoint. Dramatic clouds with the sun appearing and disappearing every few minutes, a wonderful half hour. I hope my "duplicate" photos don't offend but the ambiance changed so quickly.

While chatting to the people there I found out that there were to be talks given by three experts within the circle after the general public had left. They might have a couple of spare spaces! Blagged my way in after a warming hot chocolate and mince pie!

Listened to a short talk by a chap from the Armagh Observatory(?) about Comets and the Zodaical Light and then went into the circle. I missed out on the other two lectures as I was fascinated by the way the stones took on a strange and mysterious presence in the pitch dark. The pictures I've added to the "Artistic/Interpretive section might give a flavour of the feeling.
By this time the extreme cold was beginning to get to me and I made a strategic retreat to a warm car.
A memorable experience.

Boxgrove (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Boxgrove is almost certainly the oldest site to be added to TMA.
About 480,000 years ago, groups of homonids were here slaughtering and butchering some of the large game which came to a small lake fed by springs at the foot of a cliff. The fresh water lured prey and hunter alike.

The climate of southern Britain at this time was similar to the present but the topography was vastly different. A very wide land bridge existed between the proto-North Sea and the proto-western English Channel. Most of the present flora and fauna was present but many large herbivores/carnivores crossed the bridge and included rhino, bears, huge extinct lions, hyenas and wolves. The countryside was more open than thought a few years ago and appeared more like a cool savannah due to the heavy grazing.

Boxgrove Man, of whom a tibia and two teeth have been found, was a sturdy, athletic and tall (6ft) individual. He was not a modern human but of a species called Homo heidelbergensis, who were descendants of Homo ergaster who had left Africa about a million years previously.

Prey animals seem to have been killed with wooden spears and butchered on the spot and eaten raw, no evidence for fires has been found. Large bones were split for their marrow.
The cutting tools seem to have been made quickly on the spot and then discarded. Too heavy to carry by nomadic hunter gatherers?
Various groups must have returned again and again as about 450 hand axes/knives have been found.
Boxgrove Man might have come to a sticky end as his tibia was found to have been chewed at each end by (possibly) a wolf. Whether he was predated or scavenged after death, who can tell?

It all came to an end with the onset of the Anglian Glaciation when severe tundra conditions prevailed. Meltwater outwash created new valleys and also covered and preserved this site.

As with most excavated sites there is almost nothing to see above ground.

Thanks are due to WARG, the local Winchester society for archaeology and history, for finding me a slot in the very limited numbers allowed to be present.

Very especial thanks go to Mark Roberts who, as the project director for the UCL excavations here and elsewhere, was an astounding guide to the geology/history of this remote period. He also provided the genuine finds from the site (apart from the tibia) for us to handle and marvel at.

The pictures have a few more detailed notes

The English Heritage/UCL website is here for more info on the excavations......


No public admittance. Old quarry is being infilled and regraded. Private land.

Tilshead Lodge Longbarrow (Long Barrow)

Although not spectacular in itself it is a small triumph for conservation. A few years ago, Roy Canham, the then County Archaeologist for Wilts ,was concerned that a track used by the army was damaging the end of the barrow. After consultation with the MOD the protecting posts were moved further E and the track diverted.
(The other mounds are modern army constructions)

This is a convenient place to park for Old Ditch Longbarrow and White Barrow but read the warning on the first site.

Park opposite the prominent water tower on the Tilshead to Chitterne road. The barrow is right next door.

White Barrow (Long Barrow)

A fine barrow (protected by the NT) with well preserved ditches. The slightly swollen E end is thought to be due to a later round barrow constructed on top. MAGIC suggests that there was also a forecourt at this end.
The IA ditch and banks which approach from the NW are better preserved here within the fenced off area.

By footpath from Tilshead or the A360 or from Old Ditch Longbarrow but read the warning on that site.

Old Ditch Longbarrow (Long Barrow)

An extraordinarily large and fine barrow which seems to have survived the ravages of time (and the MOD) rather well. A great whaleback prominent on the horizon and framed by lines of trees. The crest is straight and unblemished and the large flanking ditches are equally well preserved.
Roy Canham (The ex County Archaeologist of Wilts) suggested the name as the later IA boundary bank and ditches are named as such on early maps. He also mentioned that a limited Victorian excavation at the NE end found a charcoal layer which could suggest a previous wooden mortuary enclosure perhaps similar to Fussell's Lodge.

The SW/NE tending IA bank and ditch does a dogleg around the NE end and the continuation NE is easily visible in the avenue of trees (less well defined SW). It is then ploughed out but is visible as cropmarks as it approaches White Barrow where it is better preserved.

The somewhat park-like setting is due to the fact that this was part of the estate of Tilshead Lodge, a minor stately home, demolished in the 1950s.

Park opposite the prominent redbrick water tower on the Tilshead to Chitterne road.

Although this barrow is outside the restricted MOD area, there is still a lot of military activity in the area so it is wise to keep to the paths, be alert and don't pick up any large shiny objects you might find lying around!

Eggardon Hill (Hillfort)

Tremendously impressive ditches and banks on this large site, unfortunately, as others have mentioned, you do need decent weather up here.
We were greeted by a ferocious gale which made exploring the site very difficult and one wonders how the original inhabitants dealt with inclement weather.
Any future research and/or excavation here should be very interesting indeed, if, as noted, much of the site has never been ploughed.

Access Small layby to the SE. Short level walk to entrance, gate, modest slope to interior.

Pilsdon Pen (Hillfort)

A stiff but shortish climb to the top but any pauses are worthwhile for the views to the south. The southern "entrance" is a bit of a puzzle. The notice board says that the main entrance is in the NE quadrant where the banks and ditches are much larger and deeper as the spur levels off here. At the southern "entrance" the banks and ditches peter out on either side which seems curious as, although the hillside is steep, it seems odd that this part is less defended.
The hill is capped with a layer of clay-with-flints and I just wonder if there has been a slippage down the hill, destroying the banks and ditches.

The tumulus and the pillow mounds are easily visible and the possible dew pond certainly had water in it when I visited.

A great place to visit (in good weather) with buzzards wheeling overhead, sheep peacefully grazing and stupendous 360 degree views.

Cursus Longbarrow (Long Barrow)

Tests are being done to find out whether it predates the Cursus the east end of which is just behind the trees. After the excavation the barrow will be invisible as it has been completely flattened and a road built over it!

Stonehenge Palisade (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

The general consensus is that it is a settlement site of late Bronze/early Iron Age date.
Interesting finds include a small carved chalk pig (?),the articulated skeleton of a sheep(goat?) with a scatter of flint above and below it, was it crushed alive as a sort of sacrifice? An infant burial has been found but at the time of writing (07.09.08) was waiting for the coroner to give permission for its removal.

Gate Ditch (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Atkinson found this enigmatic feature in the 1950s.
It seems to lead NNE from the first elbow in the Avenue. Any more information will be welcome. It will be invisible after the excavation.

Stonehenge Palisade (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Aerial photography and geophiz found a line of postholes and it was suspected there was a large enclosure here with a timber lined avenue leading to Stonehenge Bottom. Field walking found pottery and tools and the present excavations (Stonehenge Riverside Aug 08) are designed to discover if there was a settlement here about 3000BCE.

Ladle Hill (Hillfort)

What a surprise and delight and what a curious site.
As noted in the fieldnotes elsewhere, this fort/settlement/refuge was never finished. This is plainly obvious when walking around it. In some places the ditch and bank are nicely finished and contoured, then there is a break, a sort of causeway, and the next bit is quite different: a shallower ditch, a less "finished" profile and dumps of earth on top which have had no attempt to make them into a profiled bank.
It looks just like a building site when everybody has just knocked off for tea! There is the strong feeling that if you were to wait a bit they'll be back.

Archaeologists have suggested that each section might have been constructed by a different family. What a source of competition/arguments/backbiting that arrangement could have been!

Anyway it was abandoned when almost finished. Why? Did Big Brother (Sister?) across the valley, Beacon Hill, tell them to stop/join forces/out perform them/enslave them?

Internal and other external features are difficult to see as waist high grass and nettles obscure them.
A winter visit might be in order.

The site is not visited much and there are no worn paths anywhere. Skylarks and buzzards while I was there and it is much quieter than Beacon Hill with very little noise from the A34. Although not as high it probably has better views and is much easier to get to the top.

A site for the imagination.

Take signposts off A34 to Old Burghclere, go through village and at T junction to the left (N) park on verge on right. (2/3 cars?) Take bridleway (S), level if muddy path along valley floor, with diversions. Gentle slope right to the top. At iron gate take sharp dog-leg to the left, follow field boundary to 5-bar gate. (Private land?)

Beacon Hill (Hillfort)

This site is familiar to anyone traveling between Southampton and Oxford on the A34,
A great rounded hill on the W of the gap in the N Hants Downs.
The "fort" is not that obvious from below but after a very stiff climb (with many pauses for breath) the banks and ditches are revealed. They are all very well preserved and of impressive dimensions and some views reminded me of Maiden Castle although smaller. It's a rather peculiar shape being like an hour glass with the top chopped off, a result of following the contours I suspect.
In the NW corner (not SW as MAGIC has it) is the tomb of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the sponsor and co-discoverer with Howard Carter of Tutankhamen.
Extensive views except to the NW with Ladle Hill to the E and plenty of chalk flora and fauna.
The only downside is that the roar of traffic from the A34 below is difficult to avoid. Otherwise a very worthwhile site to visit.

Small car park at base signposted from A34.
Very steep climb to top with many steps.

Barbury Castle (Hillfort)

A few sad notes about the roundhouse erected in July 06.... Vandals have pushed out two sections of the painted wattle and daub walls and have pulled out chunks of the thatch.

It would be interesting to know where they got the inspiration/source for the carvings and painting from. Decorated bowls perhaps?

Salt Hill Long Barrow

Although this poor Long Barrow has been almost completely ploughed out, it is well worth visiting because of its spectacular setting. Situated on one of the highest parts in Hampshire (234M.), the views encompass nearly the whole of the county and the N. of the I.O.W.
Deep combes to the E. and Butser Hill,Old Winchester Hill to the W, Southampton Fawley and the Solent to the SW and the N. Hampshire Downs and Beacon Hill to the N.

It is shocking that this ancient relic has no protection. So far as I could see, ploughing may well be going on (The site was under grass silage), and within a lifetime could destroy all traces of the barrow.
Why not impose a small exclusion zone as has been done elsewhere?
(MAGIC says it survives well. Hmmm!)

In all my pictures the barrow is the vague hump in the extreme foreground!

Rough but adequate track to the W. of the disused MOD site leads to radio masts and parking by the barn. Short walk on level but rutted foot path (South Downs Way) and the barrow is just, barely, visible in the second field on the left.

St Mary's Church, Twyford (Christianised Site)

When the Saxon/Norman church was demolished in 1876, it was found that the old tower had been built on a circle of 12 Sarsen stones. They were described as "A Druidical Temple" at the time and the builders blamed the difficulty of working around them as one of the reasons for the cost/time overrun of the new church. This was designed by the famous Victorian architect Sir Alfred Waterhouse (Nat Hist Mus, Manchester Town Hall etc.) and he put the new tower on the site of the old and used the old circle again for the foundations. Nothing to see above ground sadly but another nice example of one religion imposing itself on another.

(Two prone Sarsens by footbridge over the River Itchen and fine ancient clipped Yew to the north)

Longwood House Long Barrow

What does one say about a site like this? Another of Hampshire's "lost" Long Barrows. Unvisited, unloved and almost inaccessible later in the growing season because of the waist high stinging nettles. Partly trashed in the past by a small quarry at the NW end and a track over the centre and rabbit/badger burrows at the SE end. Photographic recording of sites like this is important, boring though the images may be, as ancient barrows like this can so easily be lost.

As a case in point, my old (1976) 1: 25,000 OS Map (SU42/52) shows clearly a fenced Long Barrow a couple of hundred meters to the SE.
Later maps and a site visit show no traces. What has happened to it in the past 30 years?

Access Private woodland but footpaths close by.

Micheldever Woods (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

This really was the best time to visit these sites, a perfect 20 degree sunny spring day. The bluebells in their first flush of flower and the beeches just coming into leaf. Later in the season, with the tree canopy developed and the understory in full growth, the sites are more obscured and dark.
To add a few comments to Nat's... The pub has been demolished and if you take the anti-clockwise path from the car park the Banjo Enclosure is first (almost impossible to photo but see FlashEarth link.) then the E barrow (with trees removed), follow the path to the conifers and turn right parallel to the (very noisy!) M3 to the N barrow.
Showing 1-20 of 74 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
The pic should be interpreted correctly!!! It's a game played in our local to show how experienced cavers, myself included, can crawl through tight spaces. As the pub has a distinct lack of thick limestone in it, bar stools have to do. Honest.....
TMA re-kindled my interest in ancient history when I got my first PC and went on line early in 2002.
Other interests; architecture, natural history ( I'm a Landscape Gardener), parachuting (I used to be an instructor), and chatting in pubs.

My TMA Content: