Archaeology for all - Council for British Archaeology

Archaeology Matters

Blick Mead project director update

The Blick Mead team is very grateful to the CBA for allowing us to reply to the article in the May/June edition of British Archaeology about our research into Mesolithic Blick Mead.

We would like to draw attention to references which do not clearly reflect the amount of research and depth of analysis undertaken at Blick Mead. For example, there is no reference in the article to;

  •  University of Reading’s environmental science team’s work on the site and the data collected since 2013 (‘Current Archaeology’, 293).
  • The GPR survey work the University of Birmingham’s Hidden Landscapes Project team undertaken since 2013 (BBC 2 ‘Operation Stonehenge’, September 2013. Vince Gaffney’s and Eamonn Baldwin’s email addresses were provided to ‘British Archaeology’ November 4th 2014 and subsequently).
  •  Durham University’s analysis of the large faunal assemblage, including isotope analyses, started in 2014 (Peter Rowley-Conwy’s email address was supplied to ‘British Archaeology’ November 4th 2014 and subsequently).  

In addition, there are misrepresentations within the article. In particular;

  • The radio carbon date range significance – 7596-4695 BC, from 11 dates in each of those millennia from the spring, is not clearly illustrated. It represents the longest chain of Mesolithic dates from any site in Europe (two of the dates are contemporaneous with the radio carbon dates from the pits beneath the former car park at Stonehenge, not one, as reported).
  • With regard to the provenance of the flint assemblages recovered from the spring, we do not consider the material to be “dumped”, as reported (see Barry Bishop’s ‘Assessment of the lithic material pp15-16, and ‘Discussion’ pp 22-24, in the 2014 WAHN article referenced -
  • The project team’s initial motivation for examining the Blick Mead area is not accurately represented.
  • Project supervisors Tom Phillips and Tom Lyons did not present Barry Bishop with “bags of muddy flints” at the Oxford Archaeology East office. The project team has never taken unprocessed artefacts off the site. In fact, funding from the Wiltshire Unitary Authority helped us pay for a targeted excavation of this material in 2011 and English Heritage gave us  funding which helped pay for the specialist analysis of it.

Finally, the project team are largely comfortable with the national media stories about Blick Mead. ‘The Sun’ ran two stories about the Mesolithic diet following our work. The BBC children’s programme ‘Newsround’ reported the Stonehenge landscape being visited long before the Neolithic as a result of Amesbury being acknowledged as the longest occupied place in the UK. Additionally, BBC 2’s Horizon commissioned a programme re-assessing the Mesolithic and the ‘Neolithic revolution’ in Britain directly as a result of publicity about results from our work. This is due to be broadcast in May 2015 under the title ‘The First Britons’. This is good outreach, very much in the spirit of ‘archaeology for all’.

David Jacques, project director ‘Blick Mead Project’.

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