Prehistoric Britain uncovered

“Here you are!” Exclaimed archaeologist David Jacques, knee-deep in mud as he placed a sharp piece of flint in my hand. It was a prehistoric hunting tool. “Just think, you are the second person to hold this in about 8,000 years.”

David Jacques and team - Blick Mead archaeological dig
David Jacques, project director of an archaeological dig near Stonehenge, shows his team a newly uncovered artefact

Just over a mile away from Stonehenge a group of archaeologists led by David Jacques, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham, have struck Mesolithic gold; they have found one of the largest Mesolithic sites in north-western Europe, dating back to 7,500BC. Over 12,000 items from the Mesolithic era (8,000 – 3,500BC) have been uncovered, including hunting tools, the cooked bones of aurochs – a gigantic cow-like animal – deer, wild boar, and now even toads’ legs.

Their finds have revealed that the site was in use continually for over 3,000 years, and it could even be the reason why Stonehenge is where it is. Jacques suspects that the site will contain evidence of settlements, which would be some of the earliest ever found in the UK and would completely change our understanding of this era.

I interviewed David Jacques about his work last month and his passion and enthusiasm for the project, and indeed in general, was contagious. After the interview I was delighted to be invited down to the dig when it restarted last Friday, 11 October, thanks to extra funding from the University of Buckingham.

The site is situated in a unique area. It’s on a semi-thermal ancient springhead that has remained untouched for thousands of years. In the Mesolithic period, however, it appears to have been a hub of activity.

Stonehenge spring panorama
The ancient springhead with turquoise bands of colour

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The main camp, where volunteers search through the excavated earth

Like Jacques, the whole team is incredibly devoted to the cause, and it consists largely of volunteers who have given their invaluable time and money to the project. At this stage of the project their jobs all revolve around mud:

Digging in the mud:

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Collecting the mud:

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Moving the mud:

David Jacques - Blick Mead Archaeological dig

Sieving through the mud:

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Cleaning the mud away:

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Dan cleans the bone of an auroch, the largest animal in the Mesolithic landscape
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This is most likely an auroch’s metatarsal, untouched and unseen for thousands of years

Hoards of artefacts were found in just the two days I was there. “You’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jacques, “it’s like Tutankhamun for the Mesolithic.”

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Some of the artefacts, such as flint tools, have come out of the earth in such a pristine condition that the archaeologists have cut their fingers on them.

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More artefacts are unearthed
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The team gather to look at the latest find – another huge auroch bone

The archaeologists have very strong ties to Amesbury’s council and local museum, and it is hoped that the discoveries will bring a renewed interest in the town. Jacques’s findings are being housed in the Amesbury Museum (follow them on Facebook here and Twitter here). At the moment it is a modest building, but the museum is planning to be relocated to a larger site in order to adequately display all of the amazing artefacts.

Blick Mead archaeological dig team

David and his team, which consists of professionals, enthusiasts, volunteers and locals, are absolutely fantastic. A passion and community spirit runs so strongly through them and it was a true pleasure to be a small part of it. Thank you all!

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