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TVAS News: Sonning Cursus geophysical survey

In November 2012 the TVAS geophysics team undertook a detailed survey of an important prehistoric cropmark complex at Sonning, near Reading in Berkshire. Aerial photographs had revealed the presence of a Neolithic cursus monument along with a ring ditch and several rectangular enclosures, one of which is a Neolithic mortuary enclosure. However, because of the nature of the cropmarks, the position and form of the western end of the cursus and therefore its complete length was unknown. The complex forms a Scheduled Monument and consent was granted by English Heritage to survey the site in an effort to locate the missing detail and reveal any new features. The results were a great success. Not only were we able to locate a western end to the cursus but the survey also identified another probable rectangular enclosure and several linear features.

With the discovery of its western end, the cursus can be measured at 200m long and 35m wide with an entrance opening at the western end only. The intercutting rectangular enclosures to the northeast, one of which was excavated in the 1960s and found to be Neolithic in date, suggest multiple phases of use. Other features of note include several linear anomalies, which in some places appear to form trackways, and a meandering palaeochannel at the base of the hill. The geophysics also served to date a prominent linear feature that was originally identified in the aerial photograph survey. The large amount of magnetic debris and iron spikes seen on the line of the cropmark suggests that it is relatively modern in date and most likely represents an old field boundary.

To find out more about the TVAS geophysical survey service see the Geophysical Survey page.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

Aiji Castle, member of the TVAS geophysics team, surveying in Straighthanger Field. Plot of the cropmarks that were recorded by the RCHME aerial photo study (after RCHME). The survey area is outlined in green.

An overview of the processed magnetic data collected during our survey. The range of features can be clearly seen. Our interpretation of the survey data. E1-3 are the three rectangular enclosures.

To download the full site report go to the site record in the TVAS Report Archive.