Understanding the inhabitation of the Stonehenge environs : the interpretative potential of ploughsoil assemblages
This thesis has two main objectives. The first is to develop our understanding of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age inhabitation of the Stonehenge landscape. This is attempted principally through the analysis of the ploughsoil assemblage collected by the Stonehenge Environs Project. Concurrently the second objective is to explore the interpretative potential of ploughsoil assemblages. Current approaches to the Stonehenge Environs are critiqued and it is suggested that they share a tendency to focus upon contexts of ritual action, which create the appearance of a highly structured landscape. A consequence of this is that the interpretation of monuments is often prioritised whilst ploughsoil assemblages arc neglected. It is also suggested that the Stonehenge Environs Project's attempt to rectify this situation through the analysis of surface collected material was hampered by its lack of depth. Accordingly this project is aimed at discovering what a detailed metrical and technological analysis of the ploughsoil assemblages can reveal. This approach is complimented by a comparison of field survey projects in southern Britain, which provides a regional context of inhabitation. Ultimately the analysis shows that there is a high degree homogeneity in the surface scatters around Stonehenge. The patterning of this material runs counter to many previous interpretations that have described the landscape as zoned and ordered. Small scale elements of variation are also highlighted, which relate to the practice of a more systematic form of technology. Finally, the regional analysis indicates the unusual density of surface material in the Stonehenge Environs indicating the intensity of activities in the area. The different aspects of the analysis provide a means of understanding the conditions under which people approached Stonehenge and its landscape.