A Neolithic causewayed enclosure has been unearthed at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet. Lying within the Middle Thames Valley, a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle, it forms part of a well-populated Neolithic landscape that is already known to be home to a plethora of cursus monuments, timberframed houses, and middens. The discovery was made by Wessex Archaeology as part of an archaeological programme for CEMEX UK (a cement and aggregate supplier).
While only part of the site has been excavated so far, the 5,500-year-old monument appears to be oval in shape, with an estimated perimeter of 500m – 265m of its outline is currently traced. As excavations continue, archaeologists on site are confident that they will be able to uncover the entire circuit of the enclosure – a promising opportunity, as the excavation of complete monuments of this type is rare. Finds from the site so far include finely worked flint arrowheads, knives, serrated blades, and decorated pottery sherds, as well as bones from both humans and animals. One pit was also found to contain a carefully ground flint axe.
Early indications suggest that this causewayed enclosure may have been used seasonally, possibly as a gathering place for different communities to share in feasting and the exchange of goods. As the monument lies on slightly raised terrain, it is possible that the surrounding area may have been marshy, or at least seasonally wet, during the enclosure’s use, lying as it does within the Thames floodplain.
‘The discovery of, and chance to excavate, an early Neolithic causewayed enclosure is incredibly rare. The enclosure lies within the central area of the quarry and future work will allow us to systematically excavate and study the site’s surrounding landscape,’ said John Powell, fieldwork director for Wessex Archaeology. ‘We will be able to see how the Neolithic community influenced their natural landscape and the lives of later people by leaving their mark on the land.’
Excavations are ongoing, and it is hoped that more evidence about the site will soon be revealed.
This article appeared in CA 338.