A1 motorway

Norton Community Archaeology Group investigates a suspected formative henge

For five weeks, we are investigating a site on the edge of Letchworth Garden City, between the historic village of Norton and the A1 motorway. Originally thought to be a ring ditch (ploughed-out burial mound), reinterpretation of aerial photographs and a geophysical survey suggested that the site might instead be a henge.

Last year, the group cut a trench across the centre of the site and it became apparent that it was very unlikely to have been a burial mound. There was no trace of a central burial (or any other burials, for that matter), while the deposits towards the centre indicated that they were the result of discrete activities, including burning, depositing Grooved Ware potsherds and flint knapping. There was little time last year for thorough investigation, so this year we’ve returned for five weeks, opeining up a second trench at right angles to the first.

The group consists largely of amateurs who want to find out more about the archaeology of where they live. Many of them have been involved with the group since it formed in 2006 and have built up a considerable amount of experience. I’m their professional advisor and the summer excavation is my main research project. This year, we have a professional supervisor, Caoimhín Ó Caoileáin, and my paid intern, Siân O’Neill, providing professional support.

We stripped the topsoil on Wednesday 27 July and have been cleaning the trenches since. One of the student archaeologists, who worked with us last year, has begun planning the new trench, so we will be able to begin excavation later today. This is obviously the part that most of the people who join the group are interested in! As well as digging, though, I make sure that everybody learns how to draw plans, to record the contexts on which they are working and how to recognise the different artefacts they may encounter.