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Amesbury, Wiltshire: Britain's Oldest Town

Salisbury Plain is renowned for its spectacular Neolithic monuments, but decades of research have found few traces of earlier activity in the Stonehenge landscape. Now the discovery of the plain’s oldest residential site has uncovered evidence of 9,000 years of ritual and domestic activity, beginning three millennia before Stonehenge was built. About a mile east of Stonehenge, an impressive promontory rises out of Salisbury Plain to around 95m above sea level. Situated close to the Avenue and Blue Stonehenge, commanding extensive views over the river Avon, and surrounded at all points of the compass by important prehistoric and historic sites and monuments, this spot might be expected to have held pivotal cultural significance for the plain’s early inhabitants for its location alone. A dig led by archaeologists from the University of Buckingham found a number of burnt flints, charcoal and remains of giant bulls – which were eaten by early hunter gatherers – as well as tools. It is the highest density of Mesolithic burnt flints and tools found anywhere in the UK to date. Carbon dating from an archaeological dig by the university shows that the parish of Amesbury has been continually occupied for every millennia since 8,820BC. The findings provide evidence which suggests that Stonehenge, rather than being conceived by European immigrants - instead, relics uncovered during a painstaking search point to ancient British communities being behind the settlement. Researchers believe the town holds the distinction of being the birthplace of history in Britain. David Jacques, research fellow in archaeology at the University of Buckingham said, 'The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself. The first monuments at Stonehenge were built by these people.''

November

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