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Posted - 12th October 17

3D film of prehistoric human remains discovered at Larkhill

Infant skeleton

Army Basing construction works have unearthed fascinating archaeological finds, including prehistoric human remains, Bronze Age pottery and WWII building foundations.

The defence landscape across Salisbury Plain is currently being transformed through the delivery of new and improved single living and working accommodation at several garrisons, to support the Army Basing Programme (ABP).

This 3D film created by Wessex Archaeology shows the remains of one burial beneath the site of a new sports pitch at Larkhill Garrison.

Under ABP, the assets built by Aspire Defence Capital Works (ADCW) on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, will cater for British troops withdrawing from Germany in 2019 and numerous Army unit moves within the UK.  They include regimental headquarters, diners, sports and leisure facilities, technical buildings, workshops, vehicle and storage areas, parade and training grounds, and single living accommodation for both junior ranks and officers.

Salisbury Plain is recognised as a significant prehistoric monumental landscape, so it’s no surprise that as the buildings spring up, so too have a number of archaeological treasures.

At the Royal School of Artillery in Larkhill close to Stonehenge, where the majority of ABP construction work is underway, three prehistoric burials have recently been discovered at the site of a new sports pitch.

Prior to the start of works at the pitch, Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by ADCW to undertake an evaluation of the site.  In all, six trenches were machine excavated to determine the presence or absence of archaeological remains.  The trenching revealed archaeological features cut into the natural chalk geology, ranging in date from the prehistoric period through to the Second World War.  It also revealed three inhumation burials.

Ruth Panes, Project Manager for Wessex Archaeology, explained:

“Of the three burials, one was an infant and the other has been identified through osteological assessment as a teenage male aged 15−17.  He would have been robust in appearance and his remains contained no obvious signs of pathology.  The infant had been placed into a grave in an existing ditch and buried. Over time, the ditch gradually silted up and sealed the grave. Prehistoric pottery was found in the ditch fill which sealed the grave, which suggests the burial is also prehistoric.  One body was placed in a crouched position and we know such burials typically date between 2400 to 1600 BC.”

Other finds at Larkhill Garrison include prehistoric pits and ditches, worked flint, five military air raid trenches dug in a zig zag formation and the foundations of three military buildings thought to date from WWII.  An arrangement of eight postholes was also recorded, providing evidence for a prehistoric roundhouse measuring 4m in diameter.

A large number of tree-throw holes are also present in the area. These hollows form when trees have fallen, rotted or been removed, indicating that the site would have been covered by woodland in the past.

Aspire Defence will continue to work closely with Wessex Archaeology and numerous other local and regional statutory bodies and government agencies, throughout delivery of the ABP construction programme.

Richard Tindal, Project Director Larkhill (ADCW), said:

“Sustainability is at the heart of the project and minimising the impact of construction works is a priority.  This includes liaising closely with our archaeology partners, to ensure any artefacts located under groundworks making way for new buildings and facilities are properly documented and preserved.”

 Lt Col David Penniall, Deputy Garrison Commander Larkhill, added:

“Soldiers based here at the Royal School of Artillery are fortunate to live, train and work within such a rich and varied landscape, in terms of both military history and our cultural heritage.  It is fascinating to learn about Larkhill’s past, as we watch its transformation for the future.”

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