Fascinating Beaker Findings Discovered In Harnham Archaeological Dig
10 Mar 2021

Headland Archaeology was appointed by Vistry Group to carry out a trench archaeological evaluation of land to the north and south of Netherhampton Road in Harnham, Salisbury, ahead of a proposed new development, during which several exciting discoveries were made.

137 trenches were opened across the site and extensive archaeological remains were found, including Beaker pottery and lithics, indicative of activity dating from the earlier Bronze Age to the post-medieval periods.

Who were the Beaker people?

The Bell Beaker people, or Beaker people for short, were named after their distinctively shaped ceramic drinking vessels. Prominent in the late Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age periods, this culture was widely spread throughout Western Europe and lasted in Britain for 500 years longer than on the continent.

The arrival of the Beaker people approximately 4,500 years ago changed the population of Britain as a wave of immigrants brought with them new cultural practices and burial customs, as well as their distinctive pottery. Famous Beaker archaeological sites include Stonehenge and the burial of the Amesbury Archer.

What else was discovered?

Beaker pottery and lithics were the earliest findings, dating from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age. A substantial sub-oval enclosure, likely to be of prehistoric origin, was identified in the west of the site. This included two smaller enclosures to the eastern side and a regular pattern across the central area suggests the location of a former quarry and a barn. Some burials were also discovered, with one dated to the Beaker period (2500-1700 BCE), as well as the presence of 12 ring-ditches (from the Bronze Age).

Archaeological activity outside of the Beaker period was also uncovered across the site including probable Bronze Age barrows concentrated in the north. A large enclosure dating to the early Iron Age and a smaller enclosure were also found. In addition, extensive agricultural use of the land was also apparent, potentially as early as the Bronze Age.

Project manager, Luke Craddock-Bennett from Headland Archaeology said: “This has been a very interesting site to work on and some of the findings were very fragile so high-resolution photos and a photogrammetry model had to be used to obtain results without causing further damage or risk to the delicate objects.

“Developer-led archaeological projects in the UK are an integral part of the planning system in ensuring heritage is not lost or inadvertently destroyed while still allowing for development in order to accommodate the needs of a growing population. These types of projects now make up the majority of archaeological discoveries in the UK and serve to vastly increase our knowledge of the past.”

Dave Farley, managing director at Vistry Western, added: “It’s incredible that development funds and facilitates so many archaeological excavations. It’s been fascinating to see what’s been discovered at Harnham and I love that we can now understand the land and our heritage better as a result. The team at Headland Archaeology has done an excellent job in carefully excavating and cataloguing the findings, which will be donated to the Salisbury Museum so they can be accessed by many for years to come.”

The site has outline planning permission for 640 new homes and will provide the local community with £13 million in contributions towards education, the Salisbury Transport Strategy and a new doctors’ surgery. 40 per cent of the homes will provide affordable housing and a new primary school will be built as part of the development.


Contact: Emma Mackay, Bovis Homes and Linden Homes, 077383 12960, emma.mackay@vistry.co.uk

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