Stonehenge expert reveals its secrets

David Jaques.
David Jaques.

The secrets of Stonehenge will be revealed at a free public lecture run by the University of Buckingham this month.

Archaeologist David Jacques, who is a senior research fellow at the university, will lift the lid on the origins of Britain’s most celebrated monument in a talk entitled The Origin of Stonehenge? Secrets Of The Prehistoric Population, on Tuesday, January 28.

Mr Jacques led a ground-breaking dig at Vespasian’s Camp, just over a mile from Stonehenge, in the autumn, which is leading to history being rewritten.

His team discovered the oldest settlement in the Stonehenge area, the longest continually occupied site in the UK, as well as communities which built the first monuments at Stonehenge.

Startling new finds included the world’s oldest cooked frogs’ legs, dispelling the myth that these were first a French delicacy.

Also found at the dig, which was funded by the university, was what is believed to be Britain’s oldest flint tool, as well as the bones of a huge prehistoric cow-like creature called an aurochs and evidence that it may have been cooked.

The finds suggest Stonehenge was an important centre for human activity much earlier than previously thought and thousands of years before the stone circle was built.

Mr Jacques will be bringing along items from the dig to illustrate the talk.

The fact that such significant finds are being made a little distance from Stonehenge has led archaologists to ask whether Stonehenge was a response to something else that had happened previously.

Mr Jacques said: “All these finds strongly suggest that Vespasian’s Camp was a hub.

“It was a significant area in itself and Stonehenge seems to have come later. “

“It has always been thought Stonehenge was the first sign of life in that area.”

The decision to carry out the archaeological dig came after Mr Jacques spotted that the area had never been developed at any time in history and so it wasn’t known what lay beneath the land close to Stonehenge.

The presence of rivers or springs usually suggests a settlement and, although there is a spring in Vespasian’s Camp, no digs had ever been carried out to see if there was a settlement in the area.

Mr Jacques said: “At the time, when I suggested that this area should be explored, it was written off as a mad idea but it has actually turned out to be one of the most significant digs of recent times.”

Mr Jacques was educated at Middlesex University and Wolfson College, Cambridge.

He has been project director of Vespasian’s Camp since 2005.

His research explores the use of the Stonehenge landscape in the Mesolithic period, from 8500BC to 4000BC.

The free talk starts at 6.30pm, in the Chandos Road Buildings.