Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Plan of the Freston causewayed enclosure, with area investigated by geophysical survey and excavation in 2019 highlighted in grey

Publication of survey and excavation by anthropology faculty and student of 6,000 year old ceremonial monument in UK

New paper published in Archaeological Prospection by Dr Tristan Carter and Anthropology MA student Rose Moir on work at the large Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure of Freston, eastern England. While discovered in 1969, this is the first research excavation of the site, work undertaken in tandem with geophysical survey.

Feb 04, 2021

In 1969 aerial photography by Cambridge University discovered an 8.55-hectare circular enclosure at Freston in eastern England, only 13km from the North Sea coast. Its distinctive form – being comprised of two concentric ditches interrupted by numerous entrances – led many to believe that this was an Early Neolithic ‘causewayed enclosure’. These sites are believed to be formal gathering places for the small, mobile farming communities who had recently colonized Britain from mainland Europe around 6000 years ago. Here kinship ties would be forged and maintained through feasting, marriage and exchange, with the Freston example potentially the fourth largest known.

Despite being known for 50 years, there had never been a research excavation at the site until McMaster’s Dr Tristan Carter initiated the Freston Archaeological Research Mission [FARM] in 2018, with funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. A native to the area (born 6km from the monument), Dr Carter is interested in reconstructing the activities that took place here and understanding why these early farmers established their gathering place in this location. Ultimately the project revolves around some of his longer-term interests that he has until now been working on in the Eastern Mediterranean, namely: (1) the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent and the role of indigenous populations in the adoption of farming in new lands, and (2) the ‘archaeology of social gatherings’.

A few of these ideas are outlined in a new paper published online in Archaeological Prospection (https://doi.org/10.1002/ARP.1800) by McMaster archaeologist Tristan Carter, along with then undergraduate Rose Moir (now an MA student in the Department), and their British colleagues. The article details the geophysical survey and first season of excavation in 2019, the results of which confirmed the site’s Early Neolithic status, and suggest an even earlier burial monument at the site.

 Schofield, T., Carter, T., Jackson, N., and Moir, R. (2020), ‘Integrating geophysical survey and excavation at the Freston Neolithic causewayed enclosure, Suffolk (UK)’, Archaeological Prospection https://doi.org/10.1002/ARP.1800