Stonehenge excavations

Survey at StonehengeTrilithonSeiving at StonehengeArchaeologists toolsMegalith

Hung out to dryThe trenchInside the circleFinds

There aren’t many folk who can claim to have dug at Stonehenge (and I’m not one of them!) but I was lucky enough to see the ongoing excavations first hand this week. And i was only saying recently about getting up there to take some pictures! What a unique site and what a small trench; archaeology in a nutshell (or fish tank as one correspondant described it as groups of academics were shown round all day on Wednesday, completely diverting the site directors from their activities). Thanks to the directors for arranging for there to be such an open day (and providing such a truly fantastic opportunity for us researchers). Indeed the whole access to information side of things is exemplary: There are also big screens in the Timewatch tent showing live images from the trench providing even greater access not to mention the Smithsonian Magazine blog and BBC video blogs.

As regards the dig itself, it was interesting to see the bluestone socket and how deep it was (massive compared to the sarsen sockets, perhaps indicative of techniques more commonly applied to timber posts than stone settings) and entertaining to hear how pottery had been discovered in the backfill of the previous excavations (doh!). I was also surprised to learn that the concrete used in recent history to, ahem, shore up the monument was actually reinforced with steels, hence no decent magnetometer results within the circle. This recent history is equally as interesting as the prehistory!

The amount of disturbance to the bluestones is also fascinating and does suggest there is something special going on with them and different from other stones used in Stonehenge and other stone circles. Combined with the observation that most of the bluestones have in fact been removed totally from the site, this would suggest they were important enough to some people to invest considerable effort in their removal. And of course, transporting them from Wales in the first place was hardly a casual decision, involving considerable investment of time and energy. The idea that they had mysterious healing powers would go some way to explaining this unusual activity, why they were brought to the site in the first place and their subsequent role in activities at the site up to the present day.