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Basingstoke Archaeological & Historical Society
10:04am Wednesday 2nd November 2011 in Reports
After the excitement of our 40th anniversary celebrations (The Gazette, October 21) the society’s winter lecture programme continued in October with a presentation on ‘Recent Work at Marden Henge and the Neolithic Building’ by Dr Jim Leary, of English Heritage.
Marden Henge is the largest and perhaps least known of the great Neolithic henge monuments on Salisbury Plain and encloses some 14.5 hectares. There are however no standing stones and little else is visible today following the collapse within it of the 15 metre Hatfield Barrow after shaft digging in the early 19th century. The then farmer sold the material as topsoil and a surrounding moat, fed by a stream that apparently never ran dry, was filled in.
Dr Leary explained how excavations carried out by English Heritage in 2010 had produced some surprising results that included a gravelled ceremonial road leading towards the river Avon which partly surrounds the site.
The most important result was the discovery – on top of the bank of a smaller henge that is within the main earthwork perimeter – of a building of modest size with a very large hearth. Flint tools and bone artefacts were found close by along with a spread of charcoal and a large number of pig bones. There was no evidence of permanent settlement and it seems most likely that the site was used seasonally for ceremonial purposes that included feasting. Use may have been discontinued because of a preference for another Neolithic henge site, possibly Stonehenge.
The society’s hardy band of field workers has begun work on the site of the Up Nately brickworks which was serviced by the Basingstoke Canal until it was abandoned in 1908. Members continue to be present on the North Wessex Downs Bronze Age site and in more congenial conditions conduct research indoors in support of the revision of the Victoria County History of Hampshire. Preparatory work on a history of the Co-operative movement in Basingstoke has reached an advanced stage for publication in 2012.
The next lecture, entitled ‘Celts from the West’ will be given by Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe at the meeting of the society to be held at Church Cottage on Thursday, November 10, at 7.30pm. Non-members welcome, admission £2.
Sir Barry is a gifted excavator, especially of the Iron Age hill fort of Danebury, near Andover. He is a great communicator who is able to make us look anew at supposedly well-established fact, and his latest research has been centred on the elusive Celts.