The dwellings situated just outside the visitor and exhibition centre, are surprisingly bright and airy spaces and consist of a single room measuring five metres on each side with white chalk walls and floors designed to reflect sunlight and capture the heat from the fire. When fires are lit, the smoke from the hearth filters up through a thatched roof – knotted or tied straw carefully secured onto a hazel woven frame. Around the walls stands wooden or woven furniture – beds, seating, storage and shelving.
Volunteers are on hand to talk to visitors about the houses and to demonstrate the daily activities of the builders of Stonehenge, from grinding grain with a quern and a rider to making rope out of rushes.
The Neolithic Houses help to reconnect the ancient stones with the people that lived and worked in the Stonehenge landscape. Visitors can step through the door of these houses and get a real sense of what everyday life might have been like when Stonehenge was built.
The recreated houses are closely based on the remains of Neolithic houses discovered during excavations in 2006 and 2007 at Durrington Walls, a large ceremonial earthwork enclosure, just over a mile to the north-east of Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating showed that these buildings were built at around the same time as the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge, in approximately 2,500 BC.
The houses have been built by a 60 strong team of English Heritage volunteers – under the guidance of experienced staff from the Ancient Technology Centre - using authentic local materials: weaving hundreds of hazel rods through the main supporting stakes, thatching the roofs with wheat-straw, and covering the walls with a daub of chalk, hay and water. In total over 20 tonnes of chalk were used as well as 5,000 rods of hazel and three tonnes of wheat straw.
Find out more about how the houses were built from the Neolithic Houses blog.
The first phase of the Neolithic Houses project took place in spring 2013, when three prototype houses were built at Old Sarum over nine weeks. This enabled the project team to test ideas about the materials and methods used in constructing the houses. It also resulted in a core of trained volunteers who along with new recruits went on to build the houses at the new visitor centre. Many of those who have been involved in the build, are going on to work in the houses as education and interpretation volunteers, to help bring the past to life for our visitors.
Find out more about this phase of the project in the earlier entries of our project blog and in this short video.
We are looking for Interpretation and Education volunteers at the Neolithic houses. To get involved, contact our volunteering team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like you to share your passion for prehistory and help visitors to learn about Neolithic lifestyles, skills and technologies. To find out more about the Neolithic House Interpretation Volunteer role, and the other volunteering positions available at Stonehenge, see our Volunteering Opportunities pages.
Find out more about how you can get involved at Stonehenge.