All  
Main: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire (valeryegorov / Adobe Stock). Inset: Blick Mead (Photo: Tom Lyons via Archaeology.co.uk)

Britain’s First City Discovered and Inhabitants Built Stonehenge

Print

Archaeologists have made an astonishing discovery near England’s famous ancient site of Stonehenge – Britain’s first ever ‘city’, AND its inhabitants were the builders of the world’s most iconic stone circle.  

The discovery of a large settlement was made at Blick Mead archaeological site which is just a mile or so away from Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. The archaeological site, also known as Vespasian’s Camp, dates back to the last Ice Age, to about 6,000 BC.

Today Blick Mead is only a spring, but it was once a large river in an extensive flood plain. This would have been rich in game and could have supported a significant number of hunter-gathers. According to the Telegraph ‘A rare algae called hildenbrandia also grows in the spring, which turns stones red’ and this may have made the area appears to be magical or of some religious importance.

Stone Age Discoveries

The Telegraph reports that archaeologists who have been working at the location since 2005, ‘have uncovered more than 70,000 stone tools at the site’. In 2015, experts announced that they had found a Stone Age dwelling built out of the roots of a dead tree. Rocks possibly used as ornaments had been brought from some distance and placed around the dwelling. The finds made at the spring indicate that those who lived at the site some 6000 years ago were very sophisticated.

At a time when most of Britain was covered with dense woodlands and marshes, this was an open plain in which large now-extinct cattle called aurochs, once roamed. It seems that the local hunter-gatherers who lived in Blick Mead were dependent on them and even worshipped them.

A 30 ft long (10 m) structure with cattle prints was detected by archaeologists underground using radar. These remains may have been related to a cattle cult.

Cradle of Stonehenge

Interestingly, the aurochs were apparently not only revered in Blick Mead but also in Stonehenge. The skulls and bones of these gigantic cattle were found deposited carefully in ditches, possibly as part of a ritual. The Daily Mail reports that the aurochs ‘provide a link between the people of Blick Mead and the builders of Stonehenge’.

This and the close proximity of the two sites would indicate that the hunter-gathers who lived at Blick Mead were the most likely builders of the world-renowned stone circle. Prof David Jacques of Birmingham University was quoted by the Telegraph as stating that, such a theory ‘makes sense that if you want to find the people who built it, the obvious idea is to look for where the water is’.

Jacques calls Blick Mead ‘the cradle of Stonehenge’. Some have referred to this archaeological site as the missing link in the backstory of the UNESCO Wold Heritage site. The people who inhabited Black Mead were probably the forefathers of those who built the historic stone circle. The discoveries in Wiltshire are adding to our knowledge and history of Stonehenge, one of the most famous Megalithic monuments in the world.

Britain’s First City

The size and the scale of the finds at Blick Mead are such that they indicate a large settlement, or the Mesolithic equivalent of a city. It was made by the local hunter-gathers even though they were often highly mobile as they searched for food.  The modern spring in ancient times was the location of some sort of permanent camp, where the old, infirm and others stayed when the rest of the population was hunting or searching for food.

The archaeological site’s population would have fluctuated depending on the season. If this is correct, it challenges all our assumptions about the nature of hunter-gatherer societies. It is possible that they had developed complex societies earlier than thought and were not nomadic.

The results of the recent investigations are going to be broadcast in a forthcoming documentary. The archaeological site at Blick Mead is under threat because of a plan to build a new highway and tunnel in the area. Already, the construction work is believed to have damaged some archaeological remains. The claims that the site contains evidence of Britain’s first urban settlement could help experts in their effort to save the Mesolithic site.

Top image: Main: Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire ( valeryegorov / Adobe Stock ). Inset: Blick Mead (Photo: Tom Lyons via Archaeology.co.uk )

By Ed Whelan

Comments

I got surprised in the first sight I saw the headline!!!!!!!! I thought might be a city like Uruk or Akkad. Still, it's great to find a mesolithic settlement :)

Cousin_Jack's picture

Thats assuming Britain has always been one piece as it is now. It hasn’t always been like it is, as the University of Plymouth has found. Laurentia was a land mass which is now Scotland, Avalonia was a land mass which is now the rest of England and Cornwall was part of Armorica, what is now France. Rock geology in Cornwall is found to be different from the rock geology in the rest of England and matches the rock geology of Brittany. So if you want to put it another way, all three land masses could have had cities, not just the land mass of Avalonia. Considering Cornwall and Brittany share alot of traits maybe the first city may have been in Armorica?

Next article