Max Gate: Result, a Tale of the Unexpected

Dear Rachael

As you know, my efforts to date the features we found at Max Gate in the summer seemed to come to nothing.

The ditch we bumped into at the front of the house had a few flints in it near the surface but nothing dateable and the upper filling of the pit in the paddock contained four pieces of pottery. The pottery specialist came back and dated them all to Late Iron Age or Roman period…. Where was the Neolithic enclosure?

My return with Pete at the end of August was to hammer a couple of black tubes into the filling of the ditch in the hope of a obtaining a couple of Optically Stimulated Luminescence dates but it was mostly chalk and hardly any soil so I feared that the quartzite crystal content would be insufficient for a date.

In the chalk wall of the pit we found the tell-take impact marks from red deer antler picks, once used to hack out the chalk.

Surely this was a distinctive Neolithic sign but not certain. Then below the lower chalk rubble, at the bottom of the pit, just before we ran our of time, a layer of ashy soil which we bagged up in the hope of a radiocarbon date… but before Christmas the email from Scottish Universities Lab let me know there was insufficient carbon to date the sample.

Yesterday Phil at Gloucestershire University sent me results from the OSL dating.

And then today I got another email from the C14 lab East Kilbride. I didn’t realise they hadn’t tested the second sample from the bottom of the pit.

So, as it turns out, both features are definitely deeply Neolithic and back each other up. In fact they are Early Neolithic 4500-3500 BC rather than Middle Neolithic 3500-2800 BC though they coincide with the arc of the circular enclosure so we can say it was begun several hundred years earlier. Most likely, 3750-3650 BC, unexpectedly early.

I must admit when we bumped into the ditch under Thomas Hardy’s pathway and it coincided with the alignment of the circular enclosure…. I did feel it was too good to be true … but it was true 😊. We can push on with asking it to be a scheduled monument now as a CMP action.

A good story.

Sadly, no need to come back and take more samples …I was rather looking forward to it. Thank you and to everyone at Max Gate who made us so welcome last year.

With best wishes


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