Cats Brain Hill

An archaeologist who led the dig in the Vale of Pewsey has described the ‘goose-bumps moment’ when he discovered evidence of a Neolithic settlement from 3000BC underneath farmland.

Dr Jim Leary has been nominated for ‘Archaeologist of the Year 2018’ after excavating ‘Cats Brain’ with students from the University of Reading last summer on farmland between Hilcott and North Newnton.

Dr Leary said; ‘The Vale of Pewsey is a beautiful and fertile area between Avebury and Stonehenge which had largely been forgotten. But it holds the key to answering questions that we have about these sites. Cats Brain’ is in a field that has been ploughed for generations and so we assumed that the site had been mostly eroded away. In fact, it was actually well-preserved, it was stupefying; a proper goose-bumps moment’.

At first the team believed they had found a mass grave known as a ‘house of the dead’. However, as they excavated further, they found remains of a hall-sized building, believed to have been used in the Neolithic Age.

Located in Hilcott – halfway between the world-famous monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury – pre-dates both, belonging to the early Neolithic period, between 3,800 and 3,600 BC.

The burial mound has long since been ploughed flat, but its footprint can still be seen – read more: North Newnton Dig.