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Durrington Walls

  • O. G. S. Crawford

Probably not one in ten thousand of those who pass through the middle of Durrington Walls is aware of its existence. Though plainly visible when once pointed out, the earthen ramparts have been so greatly altered by ploughing as to be hardly recognizable, and the reconstruction of their orginal form is a very pretty exercise in field-archaeology

The walls consists of a round enclosure, cut into two unequal parts by the road from Amesbury to Netheravon (Wilts), about a mile and a half north of Amesbury, on the west bank of the Avon. Woodhenge is only eighty yards to the south, close to and on the west side of the same road. The earthwork differs fundamentally from the ordinary defensive ‘camp’, for it encloses, not a hill-top but a coombe or hollow, and it has its ditch inside, not outside, the rampart. In this latter respect it resembles the circles at Avebury and Marden in Wilts, Knowlton in Dorset, Thornborough in Yorkshire, and Arbour Low in Derbyshire; though there are points of difference. In size, Durrington Walls compares closely with Avebury, whose great earthen circle is slightly smaller in diameter; rom east to west the internal area of the Walls is 1300feet across, and from north to south about 1160 feet. (The average diameter at Avebury is 1130 feet). Both too are within easy reach of a stream, the Avon being IOO yards from the eastern entrance of the Walls, and the Kennet 330 yards from the nearest point of the great circle at Avebury. The enclosure at Marden actually touches the banks of the Avon at a point higher up in its course.

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1 See my notes in the Handbook of the British Association for the Leeds Meeting, 1927.

2 See his notes on these in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, vol. 44, Dec. 1928, PP. 246–7.

3 Reproduced here 35 figs. 2 and 4, by kind permission of Mr Farrer and the Wiltshire Archaeological Society. Letters refer to my own plan, fig. 3.

4 The ditch is revealed by the corn which in May 1924, when the photograph was taken, was fairly high. Over the silted-up ditch it had grown more luxuriantly and was therefore of a denser green colour, appearing as black on the photograph. This very luxuriance or rankness had however weakened the stalks so that, in that tempestuous year, they had been blown flat in places by the wind and rain. These fallen patches correspond to the lighter patches on the photograph. Here the stalks, being horizontal, reflect more light.

5 Mr Farrer’s other possible entrance, at K, cannot have existed, since the ditch is unbroken here (plates I and II).

6 It may be argued that, as the rampart here has been spread by subsequent cultivation, the layer of chalk lumps which covered the charcoal might not have been strictly in situ. To this objection it may be replied that the charcoal layer appears near what should be the central part of the spread rampart ; for the width of the spread rampart elsewhere, for instance between M and N, is about IOO feet, and the charcoal layer is about 50 feet from the edge of the ditch. Another bit of confirmatory evidence is the presence of the nearly intact skull above the charcoal. This could not have been found in this state if the layer of chalk below had been moved bodily by cultivation (assuming the possibility of this). Mr Farrer evidently regarded the chalk layer as intact, since he concluded, as I do also, that ‘ Durrington Walls must have been constructed after the date when this [potsherd] was deposited ’. (p. 101).

7 Since writing this I have again visited the site and carefully examined the soil exposed in the burrow, in company with Dr Clay. We both agreed that it consisted entirely of lynchet-soil, so far as it was visible, and the burrow extends for some depth into it. (There seems a doubt as to whether the present tenant is a rabbit or a fox).

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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