We all know that it’s Christmas every day when you’re digging at Blick Mead; seeing those flint blades being unwrapped from their muddy wrappings can feel like Christmas morning. But what about those Mesolithic inhabitants of the site, what would they have been up to for Christmas 10,000 years ago. Well, with 8,000 years to go before Christianity would make an appearance, their Christmas would have been very different but it is likely that this time of year would still have been important to them.
The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, an event that was not ignored by prehistoric communities. It is a well regarded theory that Stonehenge is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunset and that it is that date which is most important. On that evening the sun sets directly between the great trilathon stones which would have been a great sight to behold especially when viewed from the walk up the avenue (the path that leads from the river to Stonehenge).
If Mike Parker-Pearson’s theory is correct then there would have been people feasting at the nearby Durrington Walls for the Winter Solstice ready to make the journey down the river with their dead to the end of the avenue, to process up the avenue to Stonehenge. This means that this evening, usually on or around the 21st December, would have been a very busy event, seeing many people travelling past Blick Mead along the river and then again as they walk the Avenue.
However, Stonehenge and its associated rituals are a few thousand years apart from the activity at Blick Mead, although there is evidence that activity did continue there into the Neolithic. With no great monuments and no known rituals from the Mesolithic, it is hard to know how they celebrated the solstice. It would be naive to think that they didnt regard the longest night as something special/scary but we have no way of knowing what they did for it. There is ongoing research at the moment into whether we can ascertain seasonality at Blick Mead from the food sources that has been found, it would be very interesting to find out if they were feasting at certain times of year just like their Durrington walls descendants.
So no Christmas trees or mince pies, probably no elves on shelves or boxing day sales but it is likely that something happened at this time of year to celebrate the solstice. Whether your having a feast before travelling the river with your dead or sticking to a more traditional Christmas, why not give the gift of Blick Mead with our monograph, available at amazon.
The people of Amesbury have, for the past 7 years or so, recreated a mesolithic tradition as they see it would have been, the Amesbury Lantern Parade, more information can be found here.