Dorset history hunters embark on Stonehenge project

Dorset Echo: LIVING HISTORY: One of the prototype Neolithic houses LIVING HISTORY: One of the prototype Neolithic houses

ARCHAEOLOGISTS from Dorset are embarking on the second phase of their experimental work as part of a new visitor centre at the world-famous Stonehenge.

Staff from Dorset County Council's Ancient Technology Centre (ATC) in Cranborne, have been commissioned by English Heritage to build five authentic Neolithic houses and help discover how people may have lived in the late Stone Age.

Working at the new visitor centre at Stonehenge near Salisbury, the ATC team (with the help of English Heritage volunteers) will construct the houses using the same tools and locally-sourced materials as their prehistoric counterparts.

Earlier this year, ATC staff designed and built three prototype Neolithic houses at Old Sarum to understand which materials and methods would work best. The work was carried out by over 60 English Heritage volunteers using a range of Neolithic tools, materials and construction methods to produce buildings based on 4600 year old evidence from the excavated site of Durrington Walls.

And based on their experience from building the prototypes, they will now construct five individual buildings that will form part of the new visitor centre, which opened on 18 December.

Starting on January 27, they will have just 12 weeks to construct the houses and fit them out with plank built furniture including beds, doors and storage shelves. They will form part of the visitor centre's outdoor gallery, which is due to open in April 2014.

ATC manager Luke Winter, who is leading the project, said: “It's great to be working on this unique project and exciting to think that we're creating these Neolithic buildings that will be seen by over one million visitors to Stonehenge every year. Each house will be different and will bring history to life, helping visitors understand how Neolithic farmers lived 4600 years ago while they built a landscape and monuments dedicated to their dead."

The Ancient Technology Centre is an educational facility which provides a unique blend of hands-on ancient skills and craft activities, such as blacksmithing and fire-making, and an opportunity for children of all ages to experience the realities of life in the past.

Cabinet member for education at Dorset County Council Toni Coombs said: “Staff at the Ancient Technology Centre beat off strong competition from other organisations with their unique blend of research, reconstruction and work with volunteers. This high profile project will put the centre on the map and, with the Stone Age now forming part of the national curriculum, we hope that more schools will take the opportunity to visit the centre in Cranborne and learn about history through unique, hands-on experience.”

For more information about the ATC and the Stonehenge project, go to www.dorsetforyou.com/ancient-technology-centre

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