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Site name Stonehenge, Amesbury
Site number 406
Burial codes 4005 4009 4021 4024 4025 4028 4030 4032 4037 4043 4047 4051 4053 4065 4071 4075 4084 4092 4094 4098 4101 4104 4105 4108 4110 4111 4122 4125 4128 4143 4151 4153 4181 4200
2500bc-14/1300bc A henge with an internal bank and flat bottomed causewayed external ditch with the main entrance to the NE (but one causeway to the south), complex internal and external features, and several phases of development extending over 1200 radiocarbon years. The site is connected to the River Avon by a stone-lined Avenue. The monument had been preceded by Mesolithic activity in the area in the 8-9th millenia bc (RC HAR-455/6) which created 5 postpits to hold large upright pine posts a few hundred metres to the north.

Stonehenge Phase 1 (phasing after Cleal et al 1995) comprised an internal bank and a segmented external ditch, a wide entrance to the north east, with an inner circle of 56 holes containing wooden posts, the primary use of the Aubrey Holes. The ditch was dug as a series of pits with the intervening spaces broken down, the ditch providing material for the inner bank, a similar technique to that employed for causewayed camp ditches. The lowest ditch layer contained chipped flints, stags horn picks, antler, and animal bone including ox and pig. The north terminal comprised a large pit. Deposits of animal bone were placed on the bottom of the ditch in some areas, with particular emphasis on the entrances. These deposits included cattle jawbones and at least one ox skull, and may also have included other bones and objects. Some of the ox bones could have been 300 years old before deposition. An organic layer formed over the primary silting in the ditch. The primary silts of this ditch produced antler, deer and ox bone radiocarbon dates:

RC: a range OxA-4933 2600 +/- 60 to UB-3789 2380 +/- 18

Stonehenge Phase 2 began with the deliberate backfill of some parts of the ditch with clean chalk. In other segments natural silting occurred until they were almost full. In yet other segments, the ditch became three-quarters silted then was backfilled. There is some evidence for small cuts being made into the ditch fill and pottery and animal bone placed in them. Other cuts made from the top or near top of the filled in ditch contained human remains, mostly cremated. In the interior there was a complicated structure of timber posts, with further post structures across the northeastern causeway and running towards the southern entrance causeway. The Aubrey holes were emptied of posts, and cremation burials were placed in the secondary fills of many of them (certainly in 24, with a possible three others). There were frequent associations of animal bone, flint, bluestone and sarsen chips, and antler with these deposits, often in multiple combination. With 4 there were bone pins, and with one a chalk ball. These deposits happened towards the end of the phase, when other cremation burials were placed in the upper ditch and around the circumference of the monument and just inside the bank, as noted above.

The ditch deposits were as follows in this phase. Segments 99 and 100 formed the northern terminal of the NE entrance. Segment 99 contained cremated bone dispersed in the chalk backfill with one handful concentrated. Pieces of animal bone, a piece of human skull and tines were also found in the deposit. Segment 100 formed the terminal itself, contained cremated bone in the chalk upper fill in a compact mass as if placed there in a container, and were of a child and an adult. In another area, animal and human bones were scattered in the chalk and also in the dark layer below the chalk: four pieces of human skull, part of a human jaw, and ox skull and vertebrae fragments, with antler pieces and decayed horn picks nearby. Segment 3 contained two cremations, one comprising a mass of bone in a bowl shaped cavity, very clean and covered with a large flint, the other very small and blackened, possibly of a child. Segment 7 contained a cremation placed in a bowl shaped feature in the natural secondary ditch fill, comprising all the bones of the body belonging to an adult. Segment 9 contained two cremations in its upper filling, both of adults and unaccompanied. Segment 12 contained the deliberate deposit of a bluestone axe-hammer in its upper fill. Segment 13 contained in the northern part a cremation set in a bowl shaped scoop. In the southern part were two skull fragments in the centre of the ditch, and a cremation in a scooped recess. Segment 16 contained a cremation directly on the silt in the middle of the ditch. Segment 17 contained a small cremation, and also a burnt area with burnt animal bone in the ashes, and nearby a collection of animal bones with a few pieces of human bone with them. A gouge made of bone was near them (RC OxA-4883 2350 +/-70). Fragments of grooved ware were in the same segment. Two cremation burials were found in bowl shaped holes on the ridge dividing segments 16 and 17, one associated with a skewer pin, and side by side. Both were of adults, one possibly accompanied by a child. Segment 23 contained a very large ox skull in a cavity and an ox calf, by which were traces of fire. Segment 24 contained a small fragment of human jawbone and a chalk fragment decorated with a chevron pattern, both possibly in the secondary filling. In C10 (Hawley) a complete perforated macehead accompanied a cremation in a small depression scraped in the solid chalk just inside the bank of the main ditch.

Post holes around and in the NE entrance contained human bone deposits only at hole 44 (a few bones of a child c7).

Post holes in the interior contained no human bone deposits. However, general trenching of the interior by Hawley found 11 cremation deposits now unlocatable on any plan.

Twenty four of the Aubrey Holes definitely contained cremations, and a further three possibly also held cremations. In 4 cases the cremation was just under the turf, in 6 dispersed through the hole fill, in 14 collected in the main body of the hole, in 1 in a depression at the hole base, and in 4 in a depression at the edge of the hole. There were fewer in the western sector. Pits had been recut. (874 Dorchester-on-Thames Site 3 is a parallel). Objects buried in association with these cremations include bone skewer pins (5 instances), animal bone (1), flint and chalk objects (1), sherds (1) including an unusual ceramic object.

Phase 2 of Stonehenge has merited the description of cremation cemetery. There are 52 cremation deposits reported from all excavations at the site. They appear in four main contexts apart from the ditch fill: cut into the ditch and its immediate vicinity, cut into the bank, deposited between the Aubrey Holes and the bank, and in secondary contexts in the Aubrey Holes. These cremations began to be deposited in phase 2, and continued into the early part of phase 3 (possibly most may belong to that phase). The Cleal review (1995) sees the cemetery as a phenomenon of the early to middle third millenium BC.

RC: earliest from antler UB-3791 2447 +/- 18, and ranging to OxA-4880 1925 +/- 55 (animal bone)

Stonehenge Phase 3 saw the development of the stone settings, and had 6 sub-phases. It is thought that although the design of the settings changes, the function of the monument appears to remain the same. In summary these phases are: 3i Bluestones in the Q and R holes, then dismantled; 3ii sarsen circle and trilithons, possibly 3iii standing with Bluestone setting including trilithons, Bluestones then dismantled; 3iv Bluestone circle and Bluestone oval with sarsen circle and trilithons, arc of stones then removed to form 3v, Bluestone horseshoe with Bluestone circle; finally 3vi Y and Z holes dug for stones but not filled.

There is minimal stratigraphy in this third phase. Phases 3i, 3ii, 3iii, 3iv and 3v produced no human skeletal material. Phase 3vi contained in Y hole 30 a small stack of antlers (some fresh, some curated judging from the RC dates), and in Z hole 13 a human tooth. It is possible that there was a pattern of laying a fragment or two of bluestone on the bottom of these holes, whose secondary fills contained a wide range of pottery, animal bone, antler, stone chips and later material.

RC: for this phase ranging from UB-3821 2073 +/-21 to UB-2823 1350 +/-19 from antler and animal bone.

Dated to this third phase is a Beaker burial. Ditch Segment 98 just north of the NE entrance contained a grave cutting the secondary fill with a crouched skeleton accompanied by 3 barbed and tanged arrow heads and a polished stone bracer of dark slate. The skeleton was of a young adult male, on its back, head to NW, legs flexed to the left. It was considered from the artefacts to date to the Beaker period (RC dates from the human femur range from OxA-4886 2010 +/-60 to BM-1582 1765 +/-70).

Other human burials In the northern sector at C12 north of stone 59 was a grave WA 2724 containing an inhumation possibly also of Beaker type from sherds associated, but very disturbed. This was possibly of the same date as grave WA 1676 (Z hole 11/Y hole 9) which contained an unaccompanied male adult inhumation, the body being forced neck and shoulders into the grave, causing it to be in a very broken condition. There is an alternative view that the second burial was of Iron Age date from skeletal evidence.

Tooling and carving: carvings appear on Stones 3 (3 axeheads), 4 (26 axes), 5 (one axe), 23 (a small knife), 29 (a torso), 53 (an axe and a dagger), and 57 (a very stylised mother goddess figure). Carved chalk objects (balls, cup, skeuomorphic axe, phallus, tabular objects and perforated objects) were deposited in all phases (28 objects in all) and mostly in ditches in Phase 2.

Summary of human burial deposits: Phase 1 possible (intrusive?) adult cremation from Aubrey Hole 32; Phase 2 13 separate deposits of fragmentary inhumed remains (mostly subadults and Adults) and 28 deposits of cremated remains of 52 persons (mostly subadults and Adults Phase 3 2 part inhumations and 1 cremation.
Remains/Period Y4
County Wiltshire
Region S
National grid square SU
X coordinate 122
Y coordinate 422
Bibliographic source Gowland 1892, Hawley 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, Cunnington R H 1929, Cunnington B H 1930, Newall 1929, Atkinson, Stone and Piggott 1952, Piggott 1954a/b, Crawford 1954b, Atkinson 1956, 1970, 1979, Atkinson, Vatcher and Vatcher 1976, RCAHM(E) 1979b, Pitts 1982, Evans 1983, Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995


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Last updated: Tues Aug 10 2004