Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (700,000-4,000 BC)

The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods cover an extraordinary period of time, from the first occupation of Britain by groups of archaic humans through to the advent of farming at the beginning of the Neolithic. This time period would have seen ice sheets advance and retreat multiple times, followed by the development of lush woodland. The museum’s collections from these earliest time periods are relatively limited, but includes the largest individual collection of Palaeolithic hand axes from the Knowle Farm Gravel Pits, Little Bedwyn, as well as an important Late Mesolithic site associated with a tufa spring from Oliver’s Hill Field, Cherhill.

Palaeolithic-Mesolithic agenda download (PDF)

Neolithic (4,000-2,400 BC)

Early Bronze Age (2,400-1,600 BC)

The Early Bronze Age was a period of considerable change in central-southern Britain, and many of the barrows which pepper the Wiltshire landscape today were constructed at this time. In the beginning, probably associated with an influx of people from the near continent, we see the adoption of distinctive burial customs, pottery, and the first copper (and then bronze) objects. As the period went on, the exceptional and well connected ‘Wessex’ series of burials would develop, associated with elaborate and exotic grave goods. The Museum holds a large and internationally important collection of Early Bronze Age grave goods from across Wiltshire and the Stonehenge landscape, as well as a smaller collection of domestic assemblages dating to this period. 

Early Bronze Age agenda dowload (PDF)

Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1,600-500 BC)

Although there are some settlements known on the Marlborough Downs, there is a conspicuous absence of evidence for settlement in the period 1,600-1,000 BC for much of northern Wiltshire, especially in the Vale of Pewsey. This all changes at the start of the turn of the first millenium BC, when a number of monumental middens, huge piles of domestic waste, were constructed all along the Vale. These middens are known at Potterne, East Chisenbury, and All Cannings, and a further is suspected in Bishops Cannings. Associated with huge quantities of pottery, animal bone, and other material culture, these middens span the Bronze Age/Iron Age transition, and the museum holds significant quantities of material from all of these sites and others in the period.

Later Iron Age and Roman (500 BC - AD 450)

Early Medieval (AD 450-1100)

Medieval and Post-Medieval (AD 1100-1750)

It is in the Medieval and Post-Medieval periods that modern Wiltshire as we know it really starts to take shape. Saxon burhs such as Cricklade developed into towns, the many small rural villages which dot the landscape took shape, and castles such as the royal hunting lodge at Ludgershall were first constructed. The Museum’s Medieval and Post-Medieval collections are dominated by the large archive recovered during the excavations of Ludgershall Castle, as well as assemblages from other sites, such as a contemporary assemblage from Huish Church and Post-Medieval material from New Park Road, Devizes.

Medieval-Post-Medieval agenda download (PDF)

Copyright: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society