Continuing with the summaries of this year’s results in alphabetical order then the next bit of the site we come to is trench J. (There is no trench I on the project, my handwriting it so shocking that I have enough trouble making a clear distinction between H and K, never mind the complications of trying to make sure we can tell an I from a 1).
Trench J was opened to try to find out a bit more about the outer bank and ditch around the north-eastern plateau of New Laund Hill. These are the same features we dug last year in trench C above. The bank and ditch are curving and, if they were a full circle, they would have a diameter of around 90 metres. The bit that is still visible as a standing earthwork is only about a quarter of a circuit. Simon spent a lot of last year working with various combinations of different geophysical techniques and very detailed topographic survey to try to pick up the line of the bank and ditch on the south side of the hill.
This outer bank and ditch looks as if it was part of the same monument as the timber circle in trenches D and H. We found prehistoric flint work in trench C last year and I think that the whole thing went together to make up something like henge with the timber circle in the middle – all of which should be Late Neolithic in date.
Except, we dug a 23 metre long trench down the side of the hill this year. This was placed to cover all the blobs and hollows identified by Simon as possible ditches. Without exception these turned out to be natural fissures in the limestone bedrock. This left us with two possible answers. Either the monument never was complete, and for some reason, no-one in the Late Neolithic felt it needed a bank and ditch on the southern side to make it work. Or, there was a bank and ditch here in prehistory but the erosion of the side of the hill over the last 4000 years has completely removed it.
We have explored this idea a bit further. There was a 3 metre wide strip of bedrock in the trench which looked to be more waterworn, as if it had been exposed to the elements in the past, such as in the base of a henge ditch. We opened a wider strip of this bedrock to see if the effect carried on over a wider area and it does. This is roughly in the location that the 90 metre diameter ditch should appear.
This is either a triumph of careful excavation and thoughtful interpretation or the desperate grasping of straws, the difference between the two is not always that clear-cut in archaeology.