Knowlton Dig 2016: Site Background

Today excavations at Knowlton begin so I thought it would be useful to provide some background to the project and what it aims to achieve.  This post summarises parts of the site’s project design (Green et al. 2016) which is currently unpublished. 

The excavation at Knowlton, run by the University of Southampton, will investigate a possible Neolithic long barrow or mortuary enclosure located around 500m from the Knowlton henge complex.  The trapezoidal anomaly, identified from cropmark evidence and limited geophysical survey suggests the presence of two diverging ditches or lines of pits/posts, most probably the flanking ditches of a ploughed out long mound.

Geophysics plot of the ... overlain onto Google earth. The terminals of the flanking long barrow ditches can be seen to the left of the ring ditch.
Geophysics plot of the Knowle Hill Farm cropmark overlain onto Google earth. The flanking long barrow ditches are visible as a very faint crop mark to the left of the ring ditch with the ditch terminals just captured by the geophysical survey (Green et al. 2016: 1).

The Knowle Hill Farm cropmark measures approximately 15-20m long and 10m wide and has been provisionally identified as a ‘short’ long barrow.  If identified correctly this hints at the significance of the place as early as the 4th millennium BC and has implications for understanding the development of the Knowlton henge complex.

The long barrow is located within a region rich in long barrows (Kinnes 1992), although many of those on Cranborne Chase are more substantial than the Knowle Hill Farm cropmark (Barrett et al. 1991, fig. 2.15).  It is similar in size and shape to small long barrows excavated at Kingston Deverill and Woodford, Wiltshire (Harding & Gingell 1986), and the first phase of Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire (Whittle 1991).

The excavation, which will encompass the entire Knowle Hill Farm cropmark, aims to characterise and date the cropmark feature, and establish its relationship to monuments within its environs.

Specific objectives of the project include:

  • ascertaining the character of the features producing the cropmark (e.g. ditches, pits or large post-holes);
  • the recovery of dateable material from primary contexts;
  • the recovery of artefactual and/or structural evidence that will enable the function of the monument and its subsequent life to be established;
  • the recovery of environmental evidence pertaining to the period of the monument’s construction and subsequent life.

The 3 week long excavation (30th July – 19th August) is run by Dr Josh Pollard and Professor Alistair Pike from the University of Southampton in collaboration with archaeologists Dr Mark Gillings, University of Leicester and archaeologist Martin Green.

You can keep up to date with all of the latest discoveries from the site here on Facets, by following @Jake_Rowland1 on twitter or from the twitter hashtag #Knowlton16

References Cited:

Barrett, J., Bradley, R. & Green, M. 1991. Landscape, Monuments and Society: the prehistory of Cranborne Chase. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Green, M., Gillings, M., Pike, A. W. G. & Pollard, J. 2016. The Investigation of a Suspected Long Barrow on Knowle Hill Farm, Knowlton, Dorset; Project Design for Survey and Excavation, 2016. Unpublished

Harding, P. & Gingell, C. 1986. The excavation of two long barrows by F. de M. and H.F.W.L. Vatcher. Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine 80, 7–22.

Kinnes, I. 1992. Non-Megalithic Long Barrows and Allied Structures in the British Neolithic. London: British Museum Occasional Paper 52

Whittle, A. 1991. Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire: excavations at the Neolithic tomb in 1962- 63 by R.J.C. Atkinson and S. Piggott. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 57(2), 61–101

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