Press coverage of the project has led to a number of erroneous statements receiving worldwide attention via various newspapers and websites, a process over which the project team had virtually no control. We thought it might be useful to clarify one or two points here.
Q: Is Damerham ‘near’ Stonehenge’?
A: Not really. Apart from being in a different county, there is the small matter of a straight line distance of around 26km (circa 15 miles). In truth, of course, this isn’t that far – it’s just the modern road network that makes it seem that way. Obviously, though, as some of the monuments at Damerham will have been contemporary with the main phases at Stonehenge, and given the fact that the former are not much further from the River Avon than the latter, any possible links between the two will be explored during the course of the project.
Q: Are the Damerham long barrows ‘the oldest tombs in Britain’?
A: Who knows? Long barrows are the earliest form of burial monument to be built in the British Isles, so technically the answer is ‘maybe’. However, long barrows in Britain are numbered in the hundreds and their construction spanned several centuries. They could be early examples, or they could be late in the sequence. Let’s wait and see.
Q: Are the Damerham long barrows ‘a thousand years older than Stonehenge’?
A: It depends which phase of Stonehenge you’re talking about. They have a good chance of being around a thousand years older than the main sarsen structures, but those were not the first features at Stonehenge. There is a pretty good chance that the Damerham long barrows are six or seven hundred years older than the first phase at Stonehenge, along with every other long barrow in the country,
Q: Are there ‘crop circles’ at Damerham?
A: No. The distinction between ‘crop circles’ and ‘cropmarks’ continues to confuse some people, especially when they see circular cropmarks. Cropmarks are caused by a combination of (1) variations in soil depth due to the presence of buried archaeological features and (2) a lack of moisture in the soil. Crop circles are a form of modern landscape art created, usually after dark, by a combination of people, ropes and planks.
Q: Has ultrasound scanning been used at Damerham.
A: Not on the monuments. The nearest maternity unit is some distance away.
Q: Are the long barrows ‘Stone Age’?
A: Technically yes, although Stone Age is a term more commonly used today by the press rather than archaeologists, especially when dealing with the Neolithic. ‘Stone Age’ carries with it connotations of a lifestyle at odds with what we know about people who farmed, traded exotic goods over huge distances, and were capable of building monuments like Stonehenge.
Q: Is there a large stone burial chamber within Dampney Barrow?
A: The 2013 BBC series ‘The Flying Archaeologist’ featured an image of a substantial stone chamber, and suggested that something similar might be lurking within the mound. No evidence for such a structure can be seen on the geophysics, and in any case the surviving undisturbed chalk mound is too slight to conceal such large stones. Any chamber or other structure within or beneath the mound, if one existed, would probably have been of timber construction.
Megalithic Burial Hamber