Wiltshire

Amesbury dig 'could explain' Stonehenge history

Amesbury Museum & Heritage Centre
Image caption The excavation at Amesbury will be led by David Jacques (r) and filmed by a documentary crew

A group of archaeologists is undertaking a major dig in Wiltshire, which it is hoped could explain why Stonehenge was built where it was.

The team, which consists of leading experts in the Mesolithic period, also hopes to confirm Amesbury as the oldest continuous settlement in the UK.

The site already boasts the biggest collection of flints and cooked animal bones in north-western Europe.

The dig in Amesbury will run until 25 October.

The term Mesolithic refers to specific groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic.

'Something really special'

Andy Rhind-Tutt from Amesbury Museum said Amesbury pre-dated Stonehenge by as much 5,000 years, and could "go a long way" to explaining why Stonehenge is where it is.

"No-one would have built Stonehenge without there being something really special about the area.

"There must have been something there beforehand and Amesbury may well be it - [it could be] one of the greatest Mesolithic sites in the country."

Mr Rhind-Tutt said the team would also be looking to "find evidence of settlement for 10,000 BC".

"In previous excavations, they've found evidence of settlement up to 7,596 BC - a boar's tusk - but we're not at the bottom of the trench yet.

"Thatcham near Newbury [in Berkshire] is proving to be the oldest continuous settlement in the UK, but if Amesbury has older evidence this time, then it will be instead.

"At the moment, it is only 104 years short of being the oldest."

Well-preserved remains of a Mesolithic settlement dating from 7,700 BC have previously been found at Thatcham, which is 41 miles (66km) from Amesbury.

The Amesbury dig will also be filmed and made into a documentary by the BBC, Smithsonian, CBC and others to be screened at a later date. The project it being led by Buckingham University.

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