New evidence suggests site near Stonehenge was occupied far earlier than thought

Apr 22, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Stonehenge. Image: Wikipedia.

(Phys.org) —New tests using carbon dating techniques on materials found at a site approximately a mile from Stonehenge suggest that the area was continuously occupied thousands of years earlier than scientists have believed. The new research, led by Open University archaeologist David Jacques, came about as he and his team were investigating the closest known water source to the famous landmark.

Up to now, the consensus among scientists has been that Mesolithic people visited the site now known as Vespasian's Camp as far back as 7,500 B.C., but then abandoned it for unknown reasons. Thousands of years later, the thinking went, moved in and eventually built the world-renowned stone structures. The new research by Jacques and his team shows that such thinking has apparently been wrong as the area appears to have been occupied the whole time. It pushes back the date of earliest settlement of the area approximately 5,000 years.

The work being done by Jacques and his group of researchers is being documented as part of a BBC special called The Flying Archaeologist, to be broadcast in Britain this week. In it, Jacques reports that he became interested in the site near Stonehenge after viewing taken many years ago. He and his team surmised that if animals or humans were going to be living in the area far back in history, the most likely place would be near a source of water—Vespasian's Camp has a natural spring. They began studying the site (in Amesbury, Wiltshire) more closely back in 1999, and since then have found many prehistoric monuments.

Carbon dating of found at the site shows that people were living in the area right up to the Neolithic time, which means there was a gradual changeover—a slow mixing of cultures rather than an of the area. Dr Josh Pollard, of Southampton University, told the BBC that the teams' findings mean the group has found the identity of the people that erected the first monuments (Mesolithic posts made of wood) at the site. He added that they might also represent just the tip of the iceberg, hinting that more discoveries might be coming.

Explore further: New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

Related Stories

Ancient tombs discovered by Kingston University-led team

Jun 09, 2009

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues ...

Recommended for you

New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

Sep 19, 2014

Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs – a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State Univer ...

Militants threaten ancient sites in Iraq, Syria

Sep 19, 2014

For more than 5,000 years, numerous civilizations have left their mark on upper Mesopotamia—from Assyrians and Akkadians to Babylonians and Romans. Their ancient, buried cities, palaces and temples packed ...

New branch added to European family tree

Sep 17, 2014

The setting: Europe, about 7,500 years ago. Agriculture was sweeping in from the Near East, bringing early farmers into contact with hunter-gatherers who had already been living in Europe for tens of thousands ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

robertjamessutherland
not rated yet Apr 22, 2013
A quick check did not reveal any David Jacques or D? Jacques who had peer-reviewed publications on mesolithic or neolithic.
So he will be correcting current thinking via a BBC special? Sounds familiar.
QuixoteJ
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2013
Always refreshing to read a Bob Yirka article on this site, no matter what it's about. Proper use of commas, and actual paragraphs... Rare things these days...