Nearly a year ago I approached Amesbury to see if there was any way that our Druid
grove could be helpful to the community. At the time a new Mayor had been elected,
Andy Rhind Tutt, and like ourselves he saw that Amesbury had huge potential as yet
unrealised. Amesbury has great people, world class history and a lively culture yet
almost nobody knew of this, so as recession continued to bite and businesses suffer
‘Amesbury 2012’ initiative was launched.
The idea was to explore Amesbury heritage and riding with the energy of an Olympic
year, change things permanently for the better. Fortunately the Amesbury heritage
trail and lantern parades were very popular and people started to believe that we
in Amesbury have very good reason to attract visitors to the town.
Recently, Melor hall was purchased by the town council from the church, and this
will be the site of the new museum. Huge credit must go to Andy, but also to the
2012 committee and the town council for the foresight and resolve to make this happen.
Not only do we hope that the museum will allow Amesbury to showcase its wonderful
history and bring new visitors into the town, there will be another happy side effect:
For very many years Archaeologists and antiquarians have been digging up human remains,
animal bones, pots and flints from Stone age sites around Amesbury and all of this
ends up being removed from the community and sacred Stonehenge landscape. This is
wrong. Usually, local people do not even get to see their heritage before it is carted
Now that will change and there is every reason to hope that some of the greatest
finds will return to Amesbury to reside as close as possible to the places from which
they were taken.
It is still a long way into the future, but already there have been ideas shared
with the council sympathetic to the display of human remains in a ‘shrine context’
rather than the usual cold display. I welcome this. Where remains are too precious
to be reburied, at least we can honour them as people at rest and with all dignity
due to them as ancestors, and keep them in the sacred landscape.
Just imagine if we could bring the ‘Amesbury Archer’ home.
Pictured below, Andy Rhind Tutt at the entrance to the old Melor Hall building.
Apart from the Mesolithic theme to the exhibition, one of the first things that I
noticed upon entering the hall were illustrative plans for the new museum building:
The purpose built two story structure envisaged would be light and spacious with
zones covering the ancient aspects of our past through to the most recent. There
will be a lecture room and cafe area also.
Now to talk about the Mesolithic exhibition, and oh boy, were we in for a treat!
David Jacques, and his small team of volunteer archaeologists presented the results
of ten small excavations he directed with over 100 of his students at Amesbury, Wiltshire,
2005 - 2012.
The work has resulted in the discovery of a site, situated about a mile from Stonehenge,
which has been described as being “potentially one of the pivotal places in the history
of the Stonehenge landscape” by an inspection team from English Heritage. The uncovering
of the earliest settlement ever found in the Stonehenge landscape is the stand out
discovery, but the fact that the site also provides evidence for ritual activity
in the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British periods, and possibly beyond,
means that a rare and special ‘multi phase’ site has been discovered.
The walls of the museum were covered with pictures illustrating Mesolithic life,
and of the dig site. The auroch hunting scene and family breakfast were provided
by myself as a gift to the museum from the Druids.
This was a time of peace and plenty, with the population of Britain and Ireland at
less than 20000 people. Not a mortgage or a taxman to worry about.
David brought in a ‘small selection’ of finds from the dig site, here being looked
at by visiting Professor Tim Darvill:
Mesolithic finds are normally as rare as hens teath and just a handfull would make
a very happy finds team. At this site however, there have already been more than
10000 found from just one small trench, with a second located around 20 yards away
just starting to deliver a similar quantity.
If this continues then this will quickly become one of the top two, if not the richest
Mesolithic site in Britain.
The reason for the shear wealth of finds has far reaching significance but I will
return to that topic later.
Just a small selection!
There are a significant number of Auroch bones. These mighty ancestors of the cow
were nearly twice the size of a modern bull and were very fierce animals.
The smaller flints were mainly hunting tools, the larger flints were largely for
domestic usage preparing meat, clothes etc.
Most are ether hardly used or ‘as new’ and still exceptionally sharp after nearly
David and his team produced these world class finds on a budget of just a few thousand
pounds. It is shocking to me that we have Government Departments for Culture, and
English Heritage, both there to secure our legacy yet great work like this is left
When I think of the Stonehenge revenue money that gets poured into managing a mass
party at summer solstice every year whilst important work like this gets so little
I am hoping soon to be able to post up videos of the lectures about this dig so that
the archaeologists may speak for themselves to you of their amazing discoveries,
but for now you must please bear with me as I do my best to describe to you what
I learned from these lectures and from visiting the dig site.
Left, David Jacques on the left of the picture beside another interested archaeologist
of high renown, Julian Richards.
More than 600 tourists and locals passed through the doors of the Melor Hall to see
the 1000 plus pieces of worked flint, cooked flint and Aurochs bones all found within
a stones throw of the Hall and over the four afternoons the exhibition was open,
the Country’s leading archaeologists, Mesolithic Experts, Flint Experts, Bone Experts,
Bronze Age Expert and a leading Geologist descended on Amesbury to see the site,
explore the finds and present talks at the Hall on how Amesbury can now claim to
be the “cradle” of Stonehenge and has evidence of life within the same location for
more than 8250 years.
Each of the 8 talks given told the story so far and highlighted how internationally
important the finds are. David Jacques, the project director for the archaeological
digs who gave a few of the talks stated that in Academia the question has always
been “Why is Stonehenge, where it is?”. The answer he was pleased to state and which
also came unanimously from all of the experts visiting appears to be “Amesbury” as
the findings now show that Amesbury was a place of residence more than 3000 years
before Stonehenge was built and aligns closely with the dates of the three Totem
poles found in the Stonehenge car park.
During the weekend however, more excitement unfolded when four Horsham Points were
found, which may indicate travellers to the area at a much earlier dateline (7th
From the visitors book some people had come from far afield to see the exhibition
and on the Visit Amesbury Facebook page some glowing comments were left. Professor
Timothy Darvill and Julian Richards, both paid visits and Kate Bentley – America’s
Senior Cultural Attaché (3rd most senior person in the Embassy) from the US Embassy
spent the whole weekend in Amesbury.
Above centre, Stonehenge and Amesbury senior Druid ‘Frank’ pictured alonside archaeologists
from Cambridge Uni, Dr Tom Lyons