We have mentioned previously that the the 1-2 foot spacing of the stake holes found at Durrington Walls indicates that the original Neolithic builders were using 7 year hazel for the wands or rods that are woven to form the basic frame of the walls. Hazel of this size would provide the right thickness and strength for forming a wall between the uprights and we experimented with this technique at Old Sarum in 2013. It was found to work well and is being replicated now at the Stonehenge visitor and exhibition centre.
Paul Grigsby from the Ancient Technology Centre walked me round the Neolithic houses and described how the walls were woven using younger and more flexible hazel rods.
1. Take a rod and choose where to begin (in this case the left hand stake in the door frame as you’re facing the hut)
2. Start from the first stake and begin weaving 10 layers of hazel rods in front of and behind each consecutive stake. Doing this first group of 10 rods allows the top edge to remain roughly parallel throughout – and thereby provides a strong foundation.
3. Once you’ve completed your ten woven rods, take one rod and begin to weave from the second stake
4. Repeat starting at stake 3 and so on until you have been all the way around the house and ended up at the right hand stake in the door frame (as you’re facing the hut)
5. At the end, twist the hazel rod around the upright stake so that the stake is strongly locked in place.
6. Repeat around the house until you reach the eaves.
Generally, thick hazel will be paired with thick on either side of the stakes and thin with thin.
The hazel in the roofs replicates the pattern in the walls but the rods are woven more loosely. More about roofs next time!