In the acknowledgments of this monograph, the Blick Mead excavation team write: ’Like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, the project has at times relied on the kindness of strangers.’ Those acquainted with the dig know this to be only too true – despite the site’s astonishing archaeology, since the project’s launch in 2005 its investigators have operated on a shoestring budget, working in very short digging seasons aided by a troupe of enthusiastic volunteers. Between 2005 and 2011, we are told, there were just 16 days on site – yet the quantity of recovered finds has been prodigious. Lying just 2km from Stonehenge, the spring has produced a wealth of Mesolithic finds, including over 30,000 pieces of worked flint, extensive feasting evidence, and 79kg of unworked burnt stone. (The work has been covered in CA 271, 293, 324, and 325, and won the CA Award for Research Project of the Year 2018.)
Work on the site is ongoing, so this is not the complete story, but the book presents a clear, succinctly written picture of the findings to-date. For those interested in prehistoric flintworking, this will be a treat: discussion of the struck flint and burnt stone is detailed and methodical, with plentiful drawings of various tools supplemented by a smaller number of colour photos. Other sections consider the site’s location and its history; animal remains (including the spring’s unique assemblage of aurochs bones), and feasting evidence; appendices also detail trench reports and geophysical surveys undertaken on site.
This is a well-rounded and readable account of research undertaken at Blick Mead, and one that undeniably establishes the site’s importance in adding to our understanding of the British Mesolithic, and of the wider Stonehenge landscape. Recollections from some of the project volunteers, which are printed at the start of each chapter, are a fitting tribute to the team’s community involvement and how many people have given their time to help investigate the site. But this monograph also serves as a timely reminder of the site’s significance at a time when the spring and its ancient contents are reportedly threatened by plans for the forthcoming Stonehenge tunnel.
This review appeared in CA 347.