Durrington walls to west amesbury by way of stonehenge: A major transformation of the holocene landscape

Charles French, Rob Scaife, Michael J. Allen, Mike Parker Pearson, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas, Kate Welham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A new sequence of Holocene landscape change has been discovered through an investigation of sediment sequences, palaeosols, pollen and molluscan data discovered during the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The early post-glacial vegetational succession in the Avon valley at Durrington Walls was apparently slow and partial, with intermittent woodland modification and the opening-up of this landscape in the later Mesolithic and earlier Neolithic, though a strong element of pine lingered into the third millennium BC. There appears to have been a major hiatus around 2900 cal BC, coincident with the beginnings of demonstrable human activities at Durrington Walls, but slightly after activity started at Stonehenge. This was reflected in episodic increases in channel sedimentation and tree and shrub clearance, leading to a more open downland, with greater indications of anthropogenic activity, and an increasingly wet floodplain with sedges and alder along the river's edge. Nonetheless, a localized woodland cover remained in the vicinity of DurringtonWalls throughout the third and second millennia BC, perhaps on the higher parts of the downs, while stable grassland, with rendzina soils, predominated on the downland slopes, and alder-hazel carr woodland and sedges continued to fringe the wet floodplain. This evidence is strongly indicative of a stable and managed landscape in Neolithic and Bronze Age times. It is not until c 800-500 cal BC that this landscape was completely cleared, except for the marshy-sedge fringe of the floodplain, and that colluvial sedimentation began in earnest associated with increased arable agriculture, a situation that continued through Roman and historic times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalAntiquaries Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Durrington walls to west amesbury by way of stonehenge: A major transformation of the holocene landscape'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this