The Monuments that the Damerham Archaeology Project is currently exploring are likely to have been constructed and used between around 6000 and 3500 years ago, during the periods known to archaeologists as the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
The Neolithic period is essentially the final phase of what used to be known as the Stone Age. It was the time when people started to move away from a relatively mobile hunter-gatherer way of life. They began to plant their own crops and to farm domesticated animals, although wild resources continued to play an important role. In the British Isles, these and other developments began to make their mark in the centuries around 4000 BC.
The Neolithic was also the period when people began building sizeable monuments for the first time, leaving their mark on the land in ways that can still be highly visible today. These monuments were mainly the focus for funerary and ceremonial activities and for occasional, perhaps seasonal gatherings. As with the preceding Mesolithic period, the places where people actually lived are far more difficult to find.
The Bronze Age
Around 2500 BC, the first items of copper and gold began to appear in the British Isles. Very soon after, copper mined from places in Ireland and Wales was being mixed with tin – probably from the south west of England – to create bronze.
The impact of the appearance of metals on society in general was in many respects quite gradual. There was no sudden change in burial rites or monument types, for example. In fact, the earlier half of the Bronze Age had much in common with the later stages of the Neolithic. Many of the developments once attributed to the arrival of bronze can now be seen to have had Neolithic roots.
As with the Neolithic, the places where people lived continue to be elusive until the middle stages of the Bronze Age – after around 1600 BC – when the manner in which people occupied, farmed and divided the land began to take forms that left a far more visible trace, often in the form of substantial earthworks – banks and ditches were now being used increasingly to define, defend and demarcate places in the landscape.