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Neolithic homes at Stonehenge

Volunteer Richard Hayes is watched by his dog Tigi as he cuts roof supports for the five Neolithic buildings being recreated in the new outdoor exhibition area of the Stonehenge visitor centre in Wiltshire.</p><p>Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Volunteer Richard Hayes is watched by his dog Tigi as he cuts roof supports for the five Neolithic buildings being recreated in the new outdoor exhibition area of the Stonehenge visitor centre in Wiltshire.

Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A team of volunteers are recreating a piece of Neolithic history at Stonehenge in the UK.

They are building five houses to give an authentic glimpse of life at the time the World Heritage Site was constructed.

The 60-strong team – which includes a lawyer, teachers and a tour guide – are weaving hundreds of hazel rods through the main supporting stakes and thatching the roofs with hand-knotted wheat straw. Later, the walls will be covered with a daub of chalk, straw and water.

When completed in April, the three-month project will have used 20 tons of chalk as well as 5,000 rods of hazel and three tons of wheat straw.

The volunteers have also helped in the collection of the coppiced hazel, in some cases using prehistoric-style tools such as flint axes.

The houses, which are being constructed outside the newly-opened visitor centre, are closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered in 2006 and 2007 just a mile from Stonehenge at Durrington Walls.

Radiocarbon dates have shown that these buildings dated from around the same time the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge, in approximately 2500BC.

Experts believe the original occupants might have been involved with the construction of, and celebrations at Stonehenge.

Remains of houses from the late Neolithic period are extremely rare in the British Isles, with others known only from Orkney and at a handful of other locations.

Those found at Durrington were remarkably well preserved and the excavation uncovered the floors of the houses and the stakeholes where the walls once stood, and provided valuable archaeological evidence for the size and layout of the recreated huts.

Each house contained a hearth. Puddled chalk was used to make the floor and the spacing of the upright stakes suggest that hazel of about seven year growth was used to weave the walls.

Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said: “One of the things we’re trying to do at Stonehenge is to reconnect the ancient stones with the people that lived and worked in the surrounding landscape.

“We hope these houses will give visitors a real insight into what life was like at the time Stonehenge was built.

“They are the product of archaeological evidence, educated guess work, and a lot of hard physical work.”

English Heritage is currently looking for volunteers to work inside the completed houses which will be furnished with replica Neolithic artefacts and lit with fires.

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