3. The Range of Contexts at the East Entrance

The excavated contexts at the East Entrance can be broken down into six broad categories:

  1. Pits
  2. Post-holes
  3. Henge bank
  4. Middens
  5. House structures with associated hearths and house floor deposits
  6. The rammed flint surface of the Durrington Avenue

While some of these types of contexts, such as pits and post-holes, are commonly found, individually or in clusters, often their truncated nature means that they are found in relative isolation from other features. This has obviously hampered our understanding of what such contexts represent. Are they all that remain of settlement sites or the residue of more isolated events that took place out in the landscape? While Neolithic pits were once understood as simple refuse pits, more recently their lack of suitability for such roles has been highlighted (Thomas 1999, 64). Instead, the deposition of material within these pits has been interpreted as a process through which Neolithic people commemorated the events that took place in a locale by placing the residues of these events into the ground (ibid., 70; Fig. 6). Such acts are to be seen as part of the active creation of the significance of a place. While this may indeed be the case, many uncertainties remain about the actual character of the events that were being commemorated, the wider context within which such activities occurred and hence their significance and status within Neolithic society.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Pit 178 under excavation at the East Entrance

The contexts from the recent excavations at Durrington Walls can be divided into sub-surface contexts (pits and post-holes), which are commonly found elsewhere, and surface contexts (middens, house floors and the Durrington Avenue) which are not. Some of the uncommon types of contexts, such as the middens, houses and their associated floor deposits probably existed across Britain and are now rare as a result of poor preservation. Others, such as the metalled surface of the Durrington Avenue (Fig. 7), may reflect the unique character of the site itself. It is hoped that analysis of variation in assemblage composition between surface and sub-surface contexts at Durrington Walls will aid in the interpretation of other truncated sites represented only by the latter type. This analysis should also enhance our understanding of sites that have been entirely truncated by the plough and now only survive as surface scatters. Although there is much about Durrington Walls that is unusual for the period, the site may still provide a basis for understanding the later Neolithic of southern Britain as a whole. At present these objectives remain long term. Accordingly, the preliminary analysis presented here will concentrate on two of the most important types of contexts, the house floors and the midden.

Figure 7

Figure 7: General shot of the Durrington Avenue (spanning much of the trench in the foreground), looking north-west


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