|16 March 2010
Additional details on recent discoveries made at Stanton Drew
Last January we reported that archaeologists found the outline of a burial mound dated from nearly 1000 years before the stone circles at Stanton Drew (Somerset, England). The discovery has been made by geophysics enthusiast John Oswin and amateur archaeologist John Richards, both from the Bath and Camerton archaeological society, who have been working with a team of volunteers under the guidance of Richard Sermon, Bath and North-East Somerset Archaeological Officer.
The two Johns have spent the last six months studying the results of their survey of the site in the summer, and they believe that long before the mystical stone circles were erected on the site around 2,500 BCE, there was an impressive long barrow burial chamber on the land.
The ancient monument known as The Cove, separated from the main circles by the village church, is a set of three ancient standing stones nestled at the back of a pub car park. "This is where we believe the long barrow would have been," says John, a former defence industry sonar expert at Filton who has taken a fancy for geophysical archaeology as a retirement hobby. "I use a machine called a resistance meter," he explains. "It looks like a walking frame with a small computer attached. But actually, it is using scanning technology to create a picture of any archaeology that might be beneath the surface. Unlike traditional digging, this allows us to see what's below the surface in a non-invasive manner."
"Many neolithic stone circles are built on or near the site of an even more ancient long barrow - a large burial chamber. There is one, for example, at Stonehenge. But nobody had realised there was one here before because, although geophysicists had used this kind of equipment to scan the ground beneath the main stone circles, nobody had ever thought to come and scan this area known as The Cove. I first discovered there was a very large structure buried beneath the ground here back in the summer," John recalls. "I had been scanning all day, and when I saw the shape of a long barrow appearing on the screen my mouth just dropped open. It was one of those eyes-on-stalks moments, because I knew the civilisation that built stone circles came a thousand years after the civilisation that built long barrows. This would probably mean the stone circles had been specially built on a site that was already of sacred significance - a resting place of their distant ancestors."
To find out more about the significance of the find, John Oswin met up with the project leader, John Richards, an IT manager at Bristol University. "We're hoping that this will be just the start of the story," John Richards says. "We're hoping to get permission to go back on the site to do some more survey work this summer, and if we can get permission from the church and the pub landlord, we would like to scan the churchyard and the pub garden too, because we suspect the long barrow might extend on to their land - which would make this more than 20 metres in length. In other words, this would have been a very distinctive sacred landmark in the area 5,000 years ago."
For more information, visit the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society website at www.bacas.org.uk.
Source: Evening Post (27 February 2010)
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