A “campsite” dating back to the Stone Age has been discovered in the New Forest. The excavations were conducted at the Beaulieu Estate in Hampshire, England, by volunteers and archaeologists from the National Park Authority and the University of Bournemouth.
Objects recovered from the site include flint tools (one of them believed to have been a spearhead), a “ring ditch” monument, five cremation urns with human bones, and a charred hazelnut shell that was probably cooked in a fire. While the tools and the hazelnut shell date back between 5736 and 5643 BC during the Stone Age, the urns weren’t as old as they were dated between 1500 and 1100 BC during the Bronze Age.
In an interview with Advertiser & Times, Jon Milward from Bournemouth University Archaeological Research Consultancy stated, “Archaeological evidence from the Mesolithic period is rare, but now and again we do find flint tools and evidence for these temporary settlement sites,” adding, “We know of a few Mesolithic sites close to Beaulieu River and it appears there was another at this site.”
As for the “ring ditch”, Milward explained this in further detail, “Monuments with entrances and apparent open interiors such as this one may have been meeting spaces used to carry out rituals and ceremonies that were important to the local community.” “There is evidence here of regular modification and an apparent continuity of use over a long time — implying that this monument was perhaps more than a burial place and played a significant role in the community for many generations.”
The way that the “ring ditch” was discovered was quite interesting. While researchers were conducting an aerial search of the site in 2013 looking for the remains of a World War II gun emplacement as well as a Roman Temple, that’s when an image showed a type of crop mark in the ground. Then they performed geophysical surveys and that’s when they noticed disturbances beneath the ground. They think that this ditch might have been alone with an internal or external bank as a type of “mini-henge”.
Hilde van der Heul, who is a National Park Authority archaeologist, stated how exciting it was for the team to make this discovery, “This project is a great example of how quality archaeological research can be undertaken as part of a community project, with volunteers learning archaeological techniques.” “It aimed to give a better understanding of the New Forest’s prehistoric past, with the direct involvement of the local community.”
The full report of their excavation work has been published on the New Forest Knowledge website where it can be read in full.
Several pictures from the excavation site can be seen here.