The ground-breaking discovery of a Stone Age “eco” home – the oldest sign of settlement yet found in the Stonehenge landscape – could be under threat if controversial Government-backed plans for a tunnel go through the ancient site.
|An earthy hollow created by a large fallen tree was part of a shelter
at Blick Mead [Credit: University of Buckingham]
A planned 1.8 mile (2.9km) tunnel would run within 20 metres of the unparalleled archaeological find, and possibly obliterate other hidden secrets of our Stone Age forefathers, as yet unearthed.
The crucial find was made at an archaeological dig last week, run by the University of Buckingham’s Archaeology Project Director David Jacques and means that early British history could be rewritten because up to now it’s been assumed Mesolithic families lived a purely nomadic existence.
The discovery has been dubbed an “eco” house and is like nothing archaeologists have unearthed from Stonehenge before. Our green ancestors used the giant base – around 9 metres – of a large tree which had fallen to make into the wall of their house.
The earthy wooden wall had been lined with flints and the huge, roughly 3 metre pit left by the tree being unearthed had been lined with cobbles by the resourceful people, using stones flung up by the roots of the tree, when it was felled. It then appears to have been roofed with animal skin and had a stone hearth close by.
|David Jacques indicates how a tree stump near Blick Mead could
be used as a wall [Credit: University of Buckingham]
Other indications that our precursors were eco-friendly long before we ever imagined are the presence of a number of large stones placed near the building’s wall which may have been primitive “storage heaters” – warmed by a fire and placed close to where people slept instead of keeping a fire burning all night.
Along with its spring location, this made it a most desirable and environmentally sensitive place to have as a home.
Archaeologists think this area, Blick Mead, a mile from Stonehenge, is key to the beginnings of people living in Britain because evidence of occupancy has been found to be continuous from 7600 BC to 4246 BC, an astonishing 3,000 years encompassing a time when Britain became an island. Whoever lived in the dwellings may have been the forefathers of those who built Stonehenge, experts believe.
Teeth belonging to aurochs – huge creatures even larger than bulls – as well as burnt charcoal found at the dig indicate Stone Age man feasted on the creatures. Evidence they also feasted on salmon, trout and hazlenuts has been dug up.
|The pit lined with cobbles at Blick Mead
[Credit: University of Buckingham]
David Jacques, who has been running digs at the site for a decade, said: “This is a key site for where Britain began. It is the only continuously occupied Mesolithic site in Western Europe and we believe the “eco” home is the sort of place the first Brits lived in. Something at Blick Mead kept attracting generations back to the site, the cradle of Stonehenge. These people are adapting to nature in a really sophisticated and intuitive way, in contrast to our Government in the 21st century who are expecting nature and our history to adapt to our needs to build a tunnel through this precious countryside.”
Blick Mead was likely to have been chosen because of the presence of a constant temperature spring at a time when Britain was thawing after the Ice Age. By it a large variety of plants grew which Mesolithic families would have use for food, work and medicinal purposes – for example, pine as smokeless fuel, bark as a pain killer and watercress for vitamin D (good for pregnant women). The river Avon, adjacent to the site, would’ve been another attraction as a key transport route to this Mesolithic and future hub point.
Two years ago, Europe’s oldest cooked frog’s legs, 7,000 years old, were unearthed at the scene, proving the delicacy was English long before it was French.
Source: University of Buckingham [October 29, 2015]