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Stonehenge tunnel dig finds examined by archaeologists


An archaeological evaluation carried out on the route for the A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme has uncovered "nothing unexpected". The work was carried out along the planned route for the £1.6billion Highways England road scheme.

Stonehenge tunnel dig finds examined by archaeologists
Credit: Tom Gregory
The main phase of this work was carried out from February to October last year. Areas examined included Countess Roundabout, Longbarrow and Winterbourne Stoke. A briefing heard that at any one time there were about 50 archaeologists working on the site. As part of the evaluation work 514 trial ditches were dug with nearly 1,800 test pits as well as the use of ground penetrating radar and other techniques.

During a briefing last week, Matt Leivers, Wessex Archaeology’s senior specialist services manager, who has been co-ordinating the analysis of the material, said the work was carried out over a "much larger area” than would be impacted by the scheme. He said: “In certain areas most of what we encountered during the evaluation exercise lay within those areas where there isn’t going to be any direct impact."


Items found included flint that had likely been spread around as a result of ploughing in the area. Examples of Beaker, early Bronze Age, Romano-British and later material were also found along with an unhumation burial as well as a complete pot and fragments.

"Very little" was found at the northern end of the scheme at Countess Roundabout area and at Winterbourne Stoke "very little" was found and nothing of any significance. Broken shards of beaker were also found along with a complete Beaker pot.

"In an area like Stonehenge around that landscape you expect there to be a fairly small amount of this material everywhere you look, simply because there is so much of it. It gets spread around by the plough over the years," added Mr Leivers.

Stonehenge tunnel dig finds examined by archaeologists
Credit: Tom Gregory
And nothing was found at Rollestone Corner, the top of the junction with A360 the Packway. One of the more unusual finds was a hollow, small shale object, which Mr Leviers said they were "baffled by it". The material inside will be sent off for further testing in a bid to find out more. Surveys were carried out and a small bone was found which belonged to a child.

Mr Levier said: "Some nice things but nothing unexpected. It all fits into the pattern of what you think would be in and around the Stonehenge landscape at the various periods that we are investigating. It is adding to the picture of what we know. There were no huge surprises but some interesting and nice things none-the-less."


Longbarrow area field walking was a cremation burial in an inverted pot from the early bronze age and a large quantity of worked flint mostly in the top soil.

Andrew Crockett, the director of Wessex Archaeology, said: "There were some very significant in effect small finds but overall there weren’t too many surprises. The actual archaeological remains we describe them as 'unremarkable' in what we have seen so far within the Stonehenge landscape."

Mr Leviers said "The kind of material that we are finding is largely flint working in the plough zone, bits of pottery in ditches and things like this. Concerns have previously been raised over the impact on the area’s archaeology."

Stonehenge tunnel dig finds examined by archaeologists
Credit: Tom Gregory
Jim Hunter, Highways England’s principal cultural heritage advisor, said: "There is nothing unexpected within what we have found. What we were hoping to find with this evaluation programme was that the way we had planned the route to try and weave our way through the more significant aspects of the World Heritage Site, that the process had been successful. I’m pleased to say the programme of field evaluation has demonstrated just that, that there is nothing unexpected. There are some interesting pieces of material but nothing you wouldn’t expect within this landscape. From an archaeological point of view the road can be built without disturbing archaeology of particular significance without harming the World Heritage Site."


He said: "It is important to understand the planned route goes under the archaeology when we tunnel through the landscape. The whole point of the tunnel is to open up the Stones and the landscape around the Stones so that visitors see Stonehenge in the context of the World Heritage Site as a whole. This is an unprecedented level of archaeological investigation in advance of a road project in this county. It is a road project that is really heritage led and we want to treat this landscape with the upmost respect."

Mr Hunter said: "The concerns that are obviously raised about putting a tunnel through the World Heritage Site are based on the idea that archaeological remains will be disturbed. What we have shown, what archaeological remains there are, are nothing that one wouldn’t expect. As the World Heritage Site goes they are a bit on the dull side."

The A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down plans are currently being examined by inspectors.

Author: Katy Griffin | Source: Salisbury Journal [May 11, 2019]

TANN

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