Structures Twenty and Thirty-Six
Built around 2900BC, Structure Ten was the last major construction on site. Excavation over the years revealed that there were perhaps three earlier buildings lying beneath – one of which was Structure Twenty.
In 2021, an exposed section of Twenty’s south-eastern wall, running across the forecourt outside Ten’s entrance, was investigated.
A large stone slab keyed into this wall suggested it was one of a series that divided up Structure Twenty’s interior. This apparent use of divisional orthostats implied that Twenty was much earlier than the piered buildings on site.
All that changed in 2023, when the visible wall section was examined further. Projecting from the inner wall face was a stone pier extending into Twenty’s interior.
Not only did this reveal that Twenty was actually a piered-building, and therefore later, but much larger than expected.
The wall section was very well built, with an inner double skin to support the interior face, and a separate outer skin and midden core to help take the weight of the roof and provide insulation.
When the sandbags were removed from Structure Ten’s central hearth, revealing another wall face, it became clear that we had what was possibly an end recess for Twenty – a feature that lined up with a corner buttress already noted in Ten’s north-western cell.
But although the structural features poking through Ten’s undulating floors fitted nicely with the floorplan of a large piered building, there was a problem – an apparent lack of piers.
The evidence so far indicates only a single pair of opposing piers.
If that were the case, Twenty’s side recesses must have been huge! Of course, it may be that there are the remains of other piers still to be exposed or which underlie Structure Ten’s walls.
The presence of the pier came as something of a surprise because of the orthostat keyed into the same wall.
Are we looking at a building that had been extended, or remodelled, over its lifetime? Was its northern section originally stalled? That seems to be borne out by a change in the construction method between sections of the excavated wall.
Alternatively, the northern orthostats might have formed part of an entrance feature.
Whatever the situation, the wall of Structure Twenty survived to around 0.7m in height, suggesting the building was still standing – rather than ruinous – before it was levelled and Ten raised on top.
The presence of piers places the building much later in the sequence that we had thought, making it perhaps contemporary with Structures Seventeen and Eighteen (c3200BC) or their successor, Structure Eight (c3100BC).
The new construction was placed exactly over the top of the dismantled remains of its predecessor, Structure Thirty-Six.
Because it had been razed to its foundations, the exact form and size of Thirty-Six are uncertain, but it sat on the same alignment as Fourteen.
Features of the older building also seemed to match up with the recesses of its replacement, suggesting Structure Fourteen was a rebuild that maintained the footprint of Structure Thirty-Six.
The repeated re-use of house sites is a common narrative at Neolithic settlements.
This act of reconstruction, perhaps re-using materials from the earlier buildings, seems to represent the maintenance of a physical link to the past.