Learning about the Neolithic

SerenaName:   Serena Avery

How long have you been volunteering at Stonehenge?

Since November 2013 in various roles, but mainly as an Education Discovery Visit Leader.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering at Stonehenge?

I am an ex-Deputy Head teacher who is waiting for the new academic year, when I’m going to be starting a Masters degree in Experimental Archaeology.

What was the training session about?

I’ve had countless training sessions through English Heritage, as I have more than 1 role at Stonehenge, but this particular training was on the background archaeology to the Neolithic houses, finds at Durrington Walls and evidence for Neolithic life.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt?

I was really impressed by the items of clothing in the houses (as a sewing fan myself) and loved the tunic made from nettle fibres. It was a work of art and now I am dying to find out more about the processing and if possible, try out the method myself.

What was the most fun thing about the session?

We got to handle all of the artefacts on display and talk about the various materials used. Everything in the house is so natural, and surprisingly comfortable, and it was brilliant to try out some items practically, like sitting on the rush mats and grinding wheat on the quern stone. Hopefully we can publicly demonstrate some of the activities in the future.

What was the most surprising thing about the session or the expert?

After not too much persuasion, Susan Greaney, the archaeologist leading the session, picked up an ancient instrument and had a go. Since she can play the flute, she used the same technique. It’s fascinating that not much has changed in some respects.

What aspect of what you learnt today are you most looking forward to talking to visitors about?

I’m really looking forward to engaging the public in the Neolithic way of life and for them to go away with an awareness that the people building and living in these houses were as sophisticated as you or I. I hope to help demonstrate a more complete picture than just the structure of the houses themselves, bring them to life and show domestic and leisure activities too.

What attracts you about volunteering in the Neolithic Houses?

I was on the build team for the house project and fell in love with the structures, so other than moving in I had no choice but to interpret them. I feel very passionate about how much insight they can provide.

What would you say to others who are thinking about volunteering? 

The houses are a fantastic place to work, you learn something new every day you are here, and get to train with experts in their field, passing on their skills. It is a real privilege to have such an opportunity and something I will never forget.

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