Do you ever wonder what the world was like for the people who built and worshipped at Stonehenge? This Dirty Weekend is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help archaeologists unearth one of Britain’s BIGGEST mysteries.
What’s the big mystery with Marden Henge?
Marden Henge lies halfway between Stonehenge and the stone circle at Avebury. Built over 4500 years ago, Marden Henge is known to archaeologists as the largest Neolithic monument ever discovered in the UK and is ten times the size of Stonehenge.
Despite its enormity, and its location, it is relatively unexplored; unlike Stonehenge, most of Marden’s remains are hidden underground, and archaeologists are only really just beginning to turn their attention to it.
This July, we’re heading out to help a team of experts from the University of Reading unearth its secrets and you can come with us! This Dirty Weekend is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the team attempting to unearth one of the Britain’s biggest mysteries.
Who will we be digging with?
As well as your fellow Dirty Weekenders, and the DigVentures crew, you will be digging alongside Amanda Clarke and Jim Leary. Both are world-renowned field archaeologists at the University of Reading, and are the experts in Neolithic archaeology who are leading a 3 year research project at Marden Henge supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Historic England – digging with them will be like having Picasso teach you to paint!
Tell me more about Marden Henge!
Four and a half thousand years ago, people started building on a monumental scale. Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and Durrington Walls all appeared within a few miles of eachother along the River Avon.
But they weren’t the only ones. Halfway between Stonehenge and Avebury lies Marden Henge. Today, all that remains of Marden Henge above ground is a low, circular ridge enclosing an area of over 15 hectares, but its banks would once have stood over 10 feet high.
Archaeologists now describe it as one of Britain’s most important, but least well understood prehistoric monuments. Over the centuries, a few small excavations have taken place, but compared to the rest it has barely been touched.
Last year, the first phase of a brand new three year research excavation began and this year, we’re heading out to help. Why was it built? What was it used for? How will the archaeological evidence compare to other Neolithic monuments? For all the attention that Stonehenge gets, it might just turn out that Marden Henge is where things were really at during the Neolithic, and that’s what you can help us find out.
Dates: 2nd and 3rd July, with a rendez-vous (for briefing, drinks and H&S) on Friday at 8pm
Cost: £325 (or £520 for two if you choose the Friends with Benefits option), which includes tuition, tools, tea/coffee, and a DigVentures t-shirt. (Does not include meals or accommodation, which you’ll need to book independently).
Rendezvous: 8pm Friday night, and 8am on Saturday and Sunday mornings (details of meeting points will be shared once you’ve made your booking, but they’ll both be close to Marden Henge).
8pm – Rendezvous for archaeological briefing
8am – Gather for start of Day One
8pm – Reconvene at rendezvous for drinks, discussions and dinner
8am – Gather for start of Day Two
5pm – Tools down and mission complete!
What are you hoping to find?
Compared to its more famous counterparts, Marden has barely been touched, but excavations are already starting to unearth some real Neolithic treasures.
So far, discoveries have included the rare and very well-preserved remains of a Neolithic building inside the henge, along with some bone needles, plenty of pottery, two exquisitely worked Neolithic arrowheads and what appears to be the remains of a very large feast.
Just outside the main enclosure, excavations also uncovered the skeleton of a Bronze Age teenager, who was buried wearing an amber necklace.
As archaeologists, we can try to predict what we’ll find on a dig, but in the case of Marden Henge, not knowing is probably one of the site’s greatest appeals… With such an incredible site on our hands, we’ve got it all to play for!
What will we be doing?
Our Dirty Weekend will begin on Friday evening at 8:00pm with a rendezvous at a secret location close to site. We’ll then have two days to learn how to dig, and to unearth and record as much evidence as we can, all while learning hands-on about Neolithic archaeology and the fine art of fieldwork from some of the discipline’s most prodigious experts.
What do I need to bring?
We’ll bring the tools, the expertise and the commitment to teach you everything you want to know, you just bring yourself and bags of enthusiasm! Having said that, here’s a few things you’ll also find handy:
· Sturdy boots or wellies
· Sunhat and sunscreen
· Packed lunch for both days
· Day bag to bring everything you need to site
· Plastic bag to carry any muddy gear home in
· Anything else you might need for a two day outdoor adventure
What about food and accommodation?
- Archaeological tools, tuition and t-shirt – Included!
Camping spot at the
- – Included!
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner – Not included
Your Dirty Weekend booking covers everything related to the archaeology, including tuition, tools, one of DigVentures’ famous t-shirts and taking care of anything you find.
It also includes a camping spot at the delightfully bonkers Barge Inn, but you will need to bring your own tent. If you’d prefer to stay in a B&B with a bed, you’ll have to make alternative arrangements yourself.
Please not that meals are NOT included, and that you’ll need to bring your own packed lunches. However, the DigVentures crew will be eating at our secret rendezvous on both Friday and Saturday nights (it serves great food), and we’d be delighted if you stick around and join us! After all… the most exciting archaeological theories usually evolve over dinner and we’d love you to be part of that!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in a real, live, in-progress excavation attempting to uncover one of Britain’s biggest mysteries. If you’ve got any questions about joining the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 011 3990.
Want to share the experience?
Bring along a friend and get a 20% discount. All you have to do is select the ‘Friends With Benefits’ option when reserving your place.