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A team of archaeologists, led by a researcher from the University of Bristol, has uncovered the remains of a possible Stonehenge-type prehistoric earthwork monument in a field in Pembrokeshire.

trellyffaint-side-view-article

Side view of the south-eastern chamber looking south-west

Members of the Welsh Rock art Organisation have been investigating the area around the Neolithic burial chamber known as Trellyffaint – one of a handful of sites in western Britain that has examples of prehistoric rock art.

The site of Trellyffaint dates back at least 6,000 years and has been designated a Scheduled Monument. It is in the care of Welsh heritage agency Cadw.

The site comprises two stone chambers – one of which is relatively intact. Each chamber is set within the remains of an earthen cairn or mound which, due to ploughing regimes over the centuries, have been slowly uncovered.

On the capstone that covers the south-eastern chamber are at least 50 engraved cupmarks (one of the most common forms of later prehistoric engraving in Western Europe), the meaning of which has been long forgotten but probably represented some sort of pictorial message.

Before now, it is thought that the site has never been fully investigated.

Dr George Nash, lead project director from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and his team, which includes former Bristol students, have conducted a series of non-intrusive surveys in and around the monument.

The fieldwork element of the project started in December 2016 following the acceptance of a project design by Cadw.

This phase included a magnetometry study which covered 80 square metres around the monument and a detailed earthwork survey of the monument itself.

The geophysical survey uncovered a number of anomalies which are considered to be more than likely buried prehistoric features.

Dr Nash said: “To the south and southwest of the stone chamber and appearing to run underneath the southern section of the Trellyffaint mound are two clear circular anomalies.

“It is regarded that this feature may possibly be a henge (otherwise referred to as a hengiform) measuring around 12 metres in diameter.

“It is not clear if this feature possesses an accompanying ditch, however, a circular anomaly extends around this feature, again we are unclear of the relationship (if any) with the smaller circle – only excavation will tell.”

Further subsurface features of a probable later prehistoric date occur to the north-east, north and west of the Trellyffaint monument.

Although the precise depth of these features is, for the moment unknown, the team were interested to note that 2-3000-years’ worth of accumulated soil has not created any visible earthworks. This phenomenon though is not uncommon in coastal areas where soil deposition and accumulation can be rapid.

Dr Nash added: “This site, one of only nine Neolithic burial-ritual monuments in Wales with prehistoric rock art – or what I would term aptly ‘a visual communication system’.”

So far, the results of the geophysical survey have yielded a set of subsurface anomalies that reveal a complex ritualised landscape that includes the precursor to a Stonehenge-type earthwork monument and is similar to the six or more features that were found using similar geo-prospection methods at the nearby Neolithic site, Trefael, in 2012.

Dr Nash said: “The next stage of the project is to apply for Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC) which will include targeted excavation over recognised anomalies identified from the magnetometry survey.

“Before we do this, we will be widening the geophysics area and apply resistivity as well further magnetometry over a wider area.”

This fieldwork will take place between April 21 and 23. For details on how to get involved, visit the Welsh Rock Art Organisation’s Facebook page.
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British archaeologists have created a map of a medieval settlement using state-of-the-art scanning techniques without having to dig in to the ground.

Relying on magnetometry, ground-penetrating radar and electric resistive tomography, the team from the University of Southampton uncovered the footprint of a town located at the Old Sarum archaeological site near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Non-invasive survey methods such as ground penetrating radar have helped archeologist to create a detailed map of Old Sarum without any digging [Credit: Scriniary]

Non-invasive survey methods such as ground penetrating radar have helped archeologist to create a detailed map of Old Sarum without any digging [Credit: Scriniary]

“Archaeologists and historians have known for centuries that there was a medieval city at Old Sarum, but until now there has been no proper plan of the site,” said Kristian Strutt, director of archaeological prospection services at the University of Southampton.

“Our survey shows where individual buildings are located and from this we can piece together a detailed picture of the urban plan within the city walls.”

Old Sarum is believed to have been one of the oldest settlements in England. Located about ten miles from the iconic Stonehenge monument, the site was inhabited as early as the Iron Age and bears some evidence of the presence of Roman soldiers in the early centuries AD.

In the recent survey, the archaeologists focused on the area around the inner and outer baileys of what was once a fortification. They discovered foundations of multiple large buildings concentrated along the southern edge of the outer defensive wall, which probably used to serve military purposes.

Some of the structures are believed to date back to the 11th century, about the time when the Salisbury (New Sarum) cathedral was built.

The researchers also found a large open area behind the big buildings, residential areas in the south-east and south-west quadrants of the outer bailey and evidence of deposits indicating industrial features, such as kilns or furnaces as well as signs of quarrying after the 1300s.

“Our research so far has shown how the entire outer bailey of the monument was heavily built up in the Middle Ages, representing a substantial urban centre,” Strutt said. “Results have given us compelling evidence as to the nature of some of the structures,” he said, adding that additional non-intrusive work will have to be carried out to further expand the knowledge about the site.”

The medieval city is believed to had been inhabited for at least three centuries but was eventually abandoned as the importance of the neighbouring Salisbury grew.

“The use of modern, non-invasive surveying is a great start to further research at Old Sarum,” said Heather Sebire, property curator at English Heritage, which is managing the site.

“From this work we can surmise much about the site’s past and, whilst we can’t conclusively date the findings, it adds a new layer to Old Sarum’s story.”

The team hopes to perform the next phase of non-invasive surveying in Easter 2015.

The research was conducted as part of the Old Sarum and Stratford-Sub-Castle Archaeological Survey Project, directed by Kristian Strutt and fellow Southampton archaeologists Timothy Sly and Dominic Barker.

Similar technology was recently deployed by archaeologists and scientists from Birmingham University and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Vienna to survey the landscape around Stonehenge. The results from there revealed that Stonehenge did not sit alone within its Neolithic landscape.

Full article by by Tereza Pultarova: http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2014/dec/old-sarum-non-invasive-archeology.cfm

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