Neolithic knee prints?

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It is very exciting when archaeological evidence allows us to reconstruct or imagine small intimate details of the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago. The hard chalk floors of the Neolithic Houses excavated at Durrington Walls shed light on some of the domestic activities of the people who lived there – the people who may have built or used Stonehenge.


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In one of the houses, just by the central hearth, two indentations were found and it has been suggested that these could be knee prints – from somebody spending long hours, day after day kneeling by the fireplace, tending the fire and cooking.

It is unlikely we will ever be able to prove or disprove this theory but reconstructing these houses has allowed us to see how the building materials work and how they settle. When the houses open in June, we will begin to observe the impact that general use and traffic will have on the chalk floors. The fires will be lit, the floors will be swept, people will be walking through, and generally interacting with the houses on a daily basis.

What do you think? Are these knee prints or just naturally occurring indentations in the hard chalk floor?

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Thanks very much to Kate Welham of Bournemouth University and the Riverside Project for letting us use these two images of the floor of House 851 – which show the ‘knee-shaped’ indentations to the left of the circular hearth. Also visible are the beam-slot indentations where wooden furniture once stood around the edge of the floor.

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photo by volunteer house builder Nick Jones

There are still opportunities to get involved with the Neolithic Houses – we are recruiting for interpretation and education volunteers! Click here to find out more 

Construction Update

All of our houses are nearing completion, some are almost finished!

House 1 – we have laid the floor and made the hearth, also the furniture has been fitted and fires have been lit to test the smoke levels.

The freshly laid floor in House 1.

The freshly laid floor in House 1.

Houses 1 and 3 almost finished.

Houses 1 and 3 almost finished.

House 3 – we have finished thatching the roof, putting a straw cap compared to the rush on House 1. The floor has been laid and a hearth created along with all of the plank built furniture installed. Fires have also been lit to check smoke levels. This building has a completely different feel to House 1.

Interior of House 3.

Interior of House 3.

House 5 – this is the smallest building of the five, the evidence for which shows no stakeholes around the floor. Our rationale for building this structure is explained below. This House has been thatched in the same style as House 3 and we have also added a doorway made from woven hazel and which has then been daubed.

House 5 thatched with the wattle and daub doorway.

House 5 thatched with the wattle and daub doorway.

We are continuing with House 4, the daub has been completed and we are very close to finishing the thatching.

The thatch is nearly finished.

The thatch is nearly finished.

House 2 is currently being daubed and the roof is being thatched at the same time. The thatch is being ‘dressed’ back to look more like a you would expect a thatched building to look like.

A more traditional style of thatch on House 2.

A more traditional style of thatch on House 2.

Your chance to get involved with the Neolithic Houses

'Dougal' : finished house no.1

‘Dougal’ : finished house no.1

You will have been reading for months about the amazing experiences that the wonderful team of volunteers have been having building the Neolithic Houses.

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It is now your chance to get involved as we are looking for friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic volunteers to help visitors to Stonehenge understand and experience the Neolithic houses.

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As an Interpretation Volunteer you will be responsible for maintaining the houses, lighting fires, explaining the replica objects and assisting with the building maintenance. You will be bringing the stories of the Neolithic people to life and providing a warm and friendly welcome for all visitors.

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There are a variety of tasks you can get involved with and the role is flexible, so whatever your skills, knowledge or experience there is something for everyone.

House 5 thatched with the wattle and daub doorway.

Ideally, we would like you to commit to a minimum of one four hour shift per week, in either the morning or afternoon. However, we are flexible and can accommodate other requests.

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The role would suit people who are friendly and welcoming, flexible and keen to learn, excellent communicators, keen to share their passion for Stonehenge and interested in new learning opportunities and gaining new skills and experiences.

Houses 1 and 3 almost finished.

Houses 1 and 3 almost finished.

What our Neolithic Houses builders say about volunteering: 

“DO IT!  You meet such a diverse group of interesting people, both other volunteers and visitors, and  learn more about the extensive history of the area.” Rob

Volunteering is great fun and gives you chances in life that you would otherwise never experience.” Rosemary and Nick

“Try it! If you …would like the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people on this planet. I have spoken to people from all around the world and from all walks of life and they all have a different story to tell but they all have one thing in common – a need to visit  Stonehenge and experience  a unique part of British history. The houses  will bring Neolithic  history to life and give a more sensory experience to all and you will make life long friends to boot.” Wendy

“Volunteering at Stonehenge is very rewarding especially when working with groups of children who always respond with enthusiasm.Kathy

“I was very nervous before we started the prototype build at Old Sarum. I hadn’t done any building work before and I was worried that I would be slow and hopeless. I also worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage being outside in the cold all day. I didn’t need to worry – I have been taught the skills I need on the way and I found I loved being outside all day. It has been a fabulous experience.” Alyson

There is much more information on the English Heritage website about volunteering at Stonehenge. 

 

Meet the Neolithic House Builders: Rosemary and Nick Davis

What made you want to get involved with the Neolithic Houses project?

We first noticed the advert asking for volunteers in the English Heritage magazine. We so enjoyed our time building the prototypes at Old Sarum that we were very eager to be core members for the build at Stonehenge. Luckily our hopes were realised.

What are you enjoying about the project so far?

Everything! The outdoor physical work – even in the rain (if its not too heavy). The camaraderie. The problem solving. The satisfaction when phases are completed. Learning many and various new skills under the expert and kindly tutelage of Luke and Paul from the Ancient Technology Centre.

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Is there any part of the project that you’re particularly looking forward to or that you are particularly interested in?

Just at the moment –  the end!  It always seems to be slipping further away from us all. Though I know for certain, as soon as it does finish we shall all feel very bereft. Anyone want a small Neolithic House built in their garden?!

In what ways has being involved in this project made you think differently about the people of Stonehenge and their lives? 

We often have discussions about this whilst working away or sipping our coffee at break time. Mostly its an appreciation of the close team work that would have been essential. The realisation of the skills developed whilst using their available resources. Also wondering who and how they found the materials and their uses. Coppiced hazel, who found such a hazel which naturally grows as a small tree? The pliability of hazel and willow, both can be flexed to create a rope like material.

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What do you do when you’re not building Neolithic Houses?

We are travelling around the UK in our motorhome. We discovered we liked it so much and found it all so interesting that we’ve not been home for three and half years now! Nick is a superb photographer (it’s his photos that have been used on this blog) and I keep the diary.

What would you say to people who are tempted to volunteer at Stonehenge?

Volunteering is great fun and gives you chances in life that you would otherwise never experience. Image

 

Thank you so much Nick and Rosemary!

Additional Volunteering Opportunities

If you are interested in becoming a Stonehenge Neolithic House Interpretation Volunteer, you can find out more on the English Heritage website. In this role, you will be responsible for maintaining the houses, lighting fires and bringing the stories of the Neolithic people who originally lived in them to life for all our visitors.