Windmill Hill, a large Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Avebury, was previously thought to be built circa 3700 - 3100 BC, but with the breakthrough achieved through the scientific dating project conducted by English Heritage and Cardiff University, it is now revealed that it was constructed in 3700 - 3640 BC – narrowing the span from six centuries down to six decades. Image: English Heritage Photo Library
A five-year collaborative project between Cardiff University and English Heritage that aims to construct a more precise chronology of Neolithic civilisations in Europe has just been awarded €2.5M from the European Research Council.
The Times of Their Lives, led by Professor Alasdair Whittle of the and Dr Alex Bayliss of English Heritage builds on the ground-breaking success of combining expertise in Neolithic archaeology and Bayesian statistical analysis in mapping a precise chronology of causewayed enclosures, a type of early Neolithic earthwork, in Britain.
A revolutionary new technique
Causewayed enclosures are known prehistoric features, but up to now it has been thought that they spread slowly across Britain over five centuries. Using the new technique, Professor Whittle and Dr Bayliss have already shown that this new class of huge monuments spread rapidly all over southern Britain in a short span of 75 years, starting from the Thames Estuary through Kent and Sussex, and then west, on an intense scale that was not apparent before. The new knowledge that this happened in a flurry within two to three generations has revolutionised the way prehistory is understood and studied in Britain, and has prompted wide interest around the world.