Dorset archaeologists building houses at Stonehenge

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A team of Dorset archaeologists have been brought in to help with the £27million project to transform the visitor experience at Stonehenge.

Staff from Dorset County Council’s Ancient Technology Centre (ATC), at Cranborne, have been commissioned by English Heritage to test build three Neolithic houses and help discover how Stone Age man built homes.

Working at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury, the ATC team, with the help of English Heritage volunteers, are constructing the houses using the same tools and locally sourced materials as their Stone Age counterparts.

The final constructions will go on permanent display at the new Stonehenge visitor centre early next year.

Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said: “The reconstructed houses will be an immediate and sensory link to the distant past and will bring visitors as close as they can to appreciate what life was like for the extraordinary individuals who built Stonehenge.”

An excavation at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge revealed evidence of the houses believed to be seasonal homes of the people who built the ancient monument 4,500 years ago, uncovering floors and stakeholes where the walls once stood. But above ground, the appearance of the structures is unknown. One of the aims of the project is to test different materials and structures to see which ones work best.

The Ancient Technology Centre, part of Dorset County Council’s Outdoor Education Service, is an educational facility which provides a unique blend of hands-on ancient skills and craft activities, long-term construction projects and an opportunity for children of all ages to experience the realities of past life.

The staff’s extensive expertise and experience made them ideal candidates for the Stonehenge project.

The team has gathered materials for the huts from Garston Woods in Sixpenny Handley and the Cranborne Estate, and are using traditional Stone Age flint axes and tools to carry out the work.

ATC manager Luke Winter, who is leading the project and guiding the volunteers, said: “The evidence from Durrington Walls brought to light the remains of several types of building.

“We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground.”

The experimental Neolithic houses at Old Sarum are open to the public, with a chance to ask questions and view demonstrations, from Saturday, May 25 to Monday, May 27, between 11am and 5pm.

For more information call English Heritage customer service on 0800 333 1183.

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