Digitisation in progress: photography

Header image: Denis Grant King’s diary, Accession Number 1732623-002.

In the ‘archive scoping’ blog post I talked about our ambitions for the archive, and how we hope to embed reminders that, behind the digital files we create, there are real objects.

We’ve now been photographing for 4 months, and making good progress. Our wonderful volunteers have been tackling flat papers, photographic prints, and books which require ‘v-scanning’ (the books rest partially open in a cradle, and we use a setting in Tocosa to ‘flatten’ or ‘open up’ the pages). Each different kind of item demands a slightly different approach, whether that’s selecting lighting settings, using a cradle for conservation purposes, and whether we make use of auto crop or rotate, or do one or both adjustments manually.

Below are some of the photographs taken so far, which show a few of the strategies and decisions we’ve made.

Denis Grant King – Journal of my visit to Avebury, 1983

Denis Grant King’s diary, Accession Number 1732623-002.

King was an archaeologist and artist, and he spent many years at Avebury, eventually working with Isabel Smith as she prepared her vitally important synthesis of the 1930s excavations (which she published in 1965 as Windmill Hill and Avebury. Excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925–1939).

King’s diaries are lavishly illustrated and contain reflections on the personal dynamics of the group as much as the archaeology.

For this diary, we used the v-scan function in Tocosa, as it ‘flattens’ out the ‘v’ shape of the diary. We haven’t done this for all manuscripts, but there were compelling reasons for this one: 1. the double-page spread illustrations, and illustrations throughout, look better with square(ish) edges; 2. The handwriting is clear enough for us to use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to semi-automate the transcription process, and straighter lines of text help the OCR along. But more on OCR another time!

This map page is so beautiful I couldn’t resist uploading a version already to King’s existing Wikipedia page. We’ll be doing some more uploading to Wikipedia later in the project, as it’s a great way to get Avebury materials out there in front of many eyes!

Alexander Keiller’s 1934 excavation diary

Keiller kept diaries for each of his excavations. This is the first one for our project: covering the 1934 activity at West Kennet Avenue.

We photograph the fronts of all book-type objects in order to give more of an impression of the physical object.

Keiller’s 1934 diary, accession number 78510467 – front cover.

And here’s a preview of the title page, which gives a hint at Keiller’s handwriting (which is presenting a challenge to our transcription volunteers – more on that in another post!).

Unlike Denis Grant King’s Diary, for these diaries we are not using v-scan correction, so you get those angles edges from where the book is resting in the cradle. It was not so important to have square edges for these diaries, as there are no illustrations and the handwriting is almost impossible for OCR. Keeping these sloping edges keeps that reminder of the physical object properties.

Keiller’s 1934 diary, accession number 78510467 – inside cover page.

Retaining imperfection

Accession number 20004005-002.

Sometimes, letters might be a little creased as we find them in their storage boxes. So long as the crease doesn’t obscure the text, we are not smoothing out all texture. Again, this is to preserve more of an impression of the ‘real’ archive – which I hope will perhaps encourage people to come and see it for themselves. It also, I think, gives more of a sense of these objects as things which have been used – they’re not just digital files that have appeared on the internet, they have their own histories.

This letter is a reply from the museum curator regarding a query about the ‘Mary Tudor’ weight found at Avebury.

When photography goes wrong

And finally… just an example of the kind of human error that can sneak into the photography studio! Below you see the first image which was taken of item 88051525-064. Notice the ghostly hand blurring across the image! Luckily, we noticed this error and the photograph has now been re-taken, hands free.

Photograph of the address side of a postcard. There are two green King Edward stamps in the top right corner. This photo also has an error! There is a blur of an arm across the image.
Ooops… Item 88051525-064 is photographed a little too quickly.
Photograph of the address side of a postcard. There are two green King Edward stamps in the top right corner.
All fixed! 88051525-064 is ready for the archive.

Blog Keiller cuttings

Pinning down the Keiller cuttings – Part 6 (let’s get digital)

This blog post is part 6 of a series: you may want to read Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 first. You can find Part 7 linked at the bottom of the page.

Having reconstructed the process and produced an analogue plot of the final grid arrangement, I was ready to replicate the process ‘on the digital ground’ within a Geographical Information System (GIS).

My starting point was not Keiller’s A-B-C baseline laid out across the line of the Avenue (discussed in Blog post 2) but instead the two points A and B where the sides of Keiller’s corridor intersected the fence that closed off the southern end of the field. Whilst the material of the fence has undoubtedly been replaced since 1934, its line is still in position, as evidenced by a marked lynchet. Keiller had recorded a measurement from its junction with the road to point B, and the distance from B to A could be calculated thanks to Pythagoras. This is exactly what I needed – recognisable 1934 locations that were locatable today. 

The survey grid meets the southern fence line. In Keiller’s 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

Using these known points to light the blue touchpaper, I then converted Keiller’s meticulously measured distances into metric units and used the GIS to recreate his survey. I did this in two blocks, either side of the 6 degree pivot marked by the Triangle of Correction. 

Quality control came in the form of a pair of measurements Keiller took from the midpoint of cutting VIII (at a point he called ‘E’ – see below) along a line perpendicular to the long axis of the grid. 

Keiller reaches out. 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

He extended this line until it reached the fence lines bordering the Avenue field to either side and made a record of the distances. When this line was recreated digitally to Keiller’s measurements the endpoints fell within 7cm of the fence-line to the west and 20cm to the east. 

Contains vector map data © Crown copyright and database rights 2023 Ordnance Survey (100025252)

The final check was a simple one: did the end of the grid fall within the northernmost E-W boundary fence? I was mindful that the Avenue line ran up slope for a portion of its course, which meant that Keiller’s chained measurements were not taken on perfectly flat ground (as recorded on the modern map). To put this another way, at times he was measuring slope distances instead of horizontal distances (i.e. the hypotenuse rather than adjacent). Yet I was plotting his measurements as though they were taken on flat ground. Over the 450m or so total length of the grid this could result in stretching.

Using height data derived from LiDAR (and three cups of strong coffee), I measured the rise and fall between each pair of 100’ grid points. I then converted the slope distances into horizontal distances to determine how much stretch had potentially occurred. Across the full 450m this amounted to only 17cm. Stretch was not an issue. Although the fence here had long gone, the lynchet was preserved in the LiDAR data and this could be used to recreate the fence line. Plotting the cuttings against this showed a good fit. 

Contains vector map data © Crown copyright and database rights 2023 Ordnance Survey (100025252) & LiDAR data © Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015. All rights reserved.

Was I happy with +/- 20cm? After 89 years I certainly was. Especially given the lack of fixed reference points between 1934 and today. Given the high likelihood that there had been some degree of movement in the precise placement of the fences, the slope effects, not to mention the inherent precision and accuracy of the Ordnance Survey digital data I was fixing the grids against, this was perfectly acceptable.

So… almost done. In the final blog post I will look at the final steps that were taken in order to create these digital maps of the 1934 cuttings. 

Click here to read the final blog post in this series.


On Keiller’s excavation of the West Kennet Avenue and why we wash flint…

Whilst going through the archive in the Alexander Keiller Museum I came across some boxes of worked flint from the West Kennet Avenue. The material consists primarily of flint flakes, some of which is waste material from making stone tools, some of which are tools in their own right. The latter would have been flakes used for cutting and scraping a variety of materials such as wood and animal hides. The material in the finds archive in the Museum is conspicuously clean and carefully boxed and packaged, but for some reason this material was only poorly washed with mud still adhering to many of the artefacts. The objects needed a wash and the following is a long winded explanation of why!

One evening in 1934…

Two men met in the Red Lion in Avebury. The two men were Alexander Keiller and Stuart Piggott. Their first encounter was in 1928 when Piggott, then only 18 years old, was already a keen archaeologist with an interest in Neolithic pottery. By 1933 Piggott had taken up an appointment to help Keiller study the Windmill Hill pottery. He had also suggested to Keiller that small-scale excavation could reveal the course of the West Kennet Avenue, which at that stage had only a few standing stones remaining. The majority had been either fallen, been buried, or were broken up for building stone centuries before. Keiller thought that Piggott’s idea was excellent, and in typical Keiller fashion, took it and expanded it exponentially.

When Keiller and Piggott met in the Red Lion that evening in 1934, Keiller told Piggott that he had decided to buy the whole of the Avebury monument and as much of the West Kennet Avenue as he could, all with the aim of excavating and restoring the monument to its former glory.

It was a grand vision of a type that few could have resourced or even begun to imagine. The work began with the excavation of the West Kennet Avenue in 1934. The primary aim was to track the course of the Avenue by uncovering stone-holes and buried stones. The most efficient means to do so was through the excavation of two long parallel trenches on the alignment of the two rows of stones that made up the Avenue. Quite unexpectedly, during the course of the excavation a large artefact scatter was uncovered in the middle of the Avenue. The scatter is located towards the southern end of the section of the Avenue that Keiller subsequently restored. Thousands of visitors still walk across it every year without ever knowing that it is there.

The West Kennet Avenue during the excavation, Photo Album A, 78510300_006_d.

Keiller was interested in the scatter, which he deemed to be the remains of a prehistoric settlement, and extended the area of excavation to further investigate it. Ultimately the excavation retrieved over 1000 flint tools, associated waste flakes, and 600 sherds of pottery known as Peterborough Ware. The pottery indicated that the site was a Neolithic settlement site (later work showing that it dates to around 3000BC), and the scatter was named the West Kennet Avenue Occupation Site.

The West Kennet Avenue excavation in 2015.

The artefacts were later studied by Isobel Smith, who published them in 1965 along with the results of the rest of Keiller’s Avebury excavations. Archaeologists have known about the site, and particularly the excellent state of preservation of its artefacts, ever since but very little else was done with the material or the site until 2013 when Mark Gillings and Josh Pollard reinvestigated it over three seasons of excavations.

Mark and Josh’s team retrieved many more artefacts (over 16,000!), and also revealed two reasons that the artefacts are so well-preserved. The first is that, presumably due to the presence of the Avenue and its buried sarsens, there has been no significant ploughing of the area. This is good for archaeologists as it means that the artefacts have not been moved around in the soil, not only preserving their spatial distribution, but also the objects themselves, which can become abraded and worn by the action of the plough. The second was that the soil in the area of the Avenue had become decalcified, with the calcium carbonate that is ever present in chalky soils having been leached out of it.

This is great for those of us that study chalkland flint assemblages, as flint from chalky soils are normally heavily patinated. That means that there normally black or dark grey lustrous surfaces have become white and dull. But, this makes it hard to study the edges of stone tools, where we are often looking for fine traces of use. This is important because when flint tools are used to conduct tasks such as scraping hides, grooving bone, or processing plant fibres, their edges become worn.

At a microscopic level that wear will vary in character according to the types of materials that a tool has been used on. The technique for studying these traces of wear is rather unimaginatively called use-wear analysis, and it is very useful at revealing the range of craft and subsistence activities that took place on a site.

A photo of a serrated flake from the West Kennet Avenue
The microscopic wear present on the teeth of a serrated flake

I have previously analysed Mark and Josh’s assemblage from the West Kennet Avenue Occupation Site and sure enough the tools in the assemblage did preserve use-wear traces. These tell us that varied activities took place on the site, including hide working and the processing of the fibres of plants such as nettles.

When Keiller was excavating the Avenue, use-wear didn’t even exist as a discipline, so they had no idea what the analysis of the flint from the site could add to their understanding. This may explain why they didn’t feel the need to wash the flint from the excavation!

Me talking to the APEX Team (its not just an empty room, honest!)
The washed flint being dried out and ready for rebagging

Well, we need clean flint for use-wear analysis, and rest assured, thanks to the efforts of Briony Clifton of the National Trust and her team of volunteers (the brilliantly-named APEX team!), the flint is now all shiny and new-looking. Now I just need to analyse it all.

Once this has been done we will hopefully know much more about the types of activities that took place on the site, and whether they differ between the areas excavated by Keiller, and the more recent trenches.

This will aid our interpretations of the settlement. Was it permanently or seasonally occupied? Was it a short-lived occupation, or something more long term? Was it a settlement at all, or just a working area? These are all questions that we hope to be able to answer once the analysis has been completed.

Blog Keiller cuttings

Pinning down the Keiller cuttings – Part 5 (over-zealous planning & creative turns of phrase)

This blog post is part of a series: you may like to explore Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 first.

Although I promised that this post would cover the process of geo-referencing – i.e. locating Keiller’s cutting grid on the ground today – I would like to briefly digress and talk a little about the tweaks and alterations Keiller had to make as he went along. In other words, Keiller’s extensions to the grid.

These ‘extensions’ capture for me the essence of Keiller’s perhaps overly meticulous approach. They also hint at his rather long-winded and idiosyncratic writing style* – if you do not believe me compare the text of the 1936 Antiquity interim (penned by Keiller & Piggott) with the 1939 interim (penned by Keiller alone). The latter is chewy.

Keiller’s extensions. 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

As I noted in previous blog posts, Keiller’s approach to setting out the West Kennet Avenue trenches was rigid and meticulous – ruler-straight baselines and regular gridded corridors of equally sized cuttings laid out to track the course of the paired standing stones.

Sadly, the Avenue itself did not play ball, its course gently curving and arcing as it plodded its way north towards the Avebury henge. To cope with this Keiller took the decision to pivot the entire grid 6 degrees to the northeast, as discussed in blog post 4. He also surveyed in a series of regular geometric extensions to the basic grid to enable his cuttings to encompass the full positions of the component standing stones and other features (such as post holes).

Keiller extends. 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

I’d have called them extensions (if I called them anything at all). Keiller was more creative. As a result as we read through the notebooks and peruse the plans we encounter the rather lovely Triangle of Extension along with the Trapezium of Extension, the Parallelogram of Extension and the Square of Extension. They sound like cool band names. 

Trapezium of extension. 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

And things could get complicated, as progressive excavation revealed the need for extensions to extensions, leading to my favourite, the frankly awesome Parallelogram of Further Extension. Needless to say, the 6 degree pivot was made possible by the terrifying sounding Triangle of Correction.

Yikes. Extending extensions. 1934-5 West Kennet Avenue Plotting Book, accession number 78510469.

Next stop: geo-referencing. I promise. 

* the irony in me – a notoriously long-winded and prolix writer – calling Keiller out on his wordiness has not been wasted.


Sorting Loose Prints

In the archive, we have several photo albums for the 1934 to 1939 excavations at Avebury. Each album shows us how Alexander Keiller and his team carefully excavated and lifted the stones in the outer circle and down West Kennet Avenue.

the photo shows four photos on a photo album page of workers lifting a stone
Page 70 in photo album B (78510301_070)

Alexander Keiller was very particular about which photo prints he used in the albums so we have a lot of loose spare prints that did not make the cut.

This means that we have to individually check each print to see if it is a duplicate or an original. To do this we have a quick and easy process.

First, we start by dividing the prints into piles. We separate the prints by their film reel number, which Alexander Keiller wrote in the bottom right corner of the print.

the photo shows 8 piles of loose black and white prints
Loose prints for photo album G sorted by film reel

Once sorted we search our excel catalogue to check if any of the prints are already in the album.

an excel spreadsheet with the find tool open
searching film numbers on the spreadsheet

Occasionally we will find that one of the loose prints is already in the album. In this case, we open the photo album to check if the image is the same in the print as it is in the album.

two identical prints of a standing stone
Loose print and Photo Album G (78510306)

Loose prints that are identical to the photo album are separated out from those that are not. This is because we only want to photograph prints that are not already in the albums.

Once a box is sorted into photos already in the album and those that are not it is put back on the shelf to be photographed later.


Video: March updates from the paper archive

We are two short months into the digitisation here at Avebury! Below you can watch a very short video going over what we’ve been up to with the volunteer team in the paper archive so far. This video was originally made for the local National Trust spring update.

Please leave your questions or comments – we’d love to know what you think.


Cool Finds of the Month

We are now well into our second month of digitisation here at Avebury. So let’s look at some cool finds we’ve had this month.

black and white print of workers pumping water out of a trench
Workers pumping water out of a trench. Photo Album E, page 33, 78510304.

This photo found in photo album E shows workers pumping water out of a stone hole, presumably after heavy rainfall, to complete the stone’s excavation.

A sketch of skeletal remains found in a feature. includes a list of reference points
Sketch of skeletal remains in stone hole 31. Found in one of Stuart Piggott’s books, accession number 78510489_059.

This cool sketch was found in one of Stuart Piggott’s plotting books. It shows a detailed drawing of the burial in stone hole 31. Stone hole 31 is the feature that we saw Stuart excavating a pot in last time!

black and white photo of a lady on a ladder cleaning a standing stone
Photo of Doris Chapman cleaning a stone, accession number 78510304_052_b.

The above photo shows worker Doris Chapman up a ladder cleaning one of the excavated and lifted standing stones down West Kennet Avenue. It shows that Alexander Keiller and his team had a sharp eye for the fine details of the site.

black and white photo of four men in work clothes, the second man from the left is holding a cat in his arms
Photo by W E V Young, 1939, accession number 20004235_002.

These workers seem to have found a furry friend on the dig site! This moment was captured by W E V Young in 1939.

Blog Keiller cuttings

Pinning down the Keiller Cuttings – Part 4

This blog post is part of a series: read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

If the West Kennet Avenue had followed a largely straight line (as John Aubrey portrayed it in a drawing carried out shortly after his survey in September 1663), Keiller’s 80’ wide corridor would have done the job. Unfortunately its course was rather sinuous (hats off to William Stukeley) as indicated by a single surviving stone (Keiller’s #34, Smith’s 21A) on the other side of the road running along the eastern edge of the field.

Stukeley’s interpretation of the Avebury landscape, via Wikicommons.

As a result Keiller knew that sooner or later his corridor of regular blocks and cuttings would have to pivot. This eventually came at a distance of just over 243m (800’) from the fence marking the southern end of the field, though it was clear from about 180m that the line of paired standing stones was drifting to the east of the corridor axis. This in turn prompted some nimble footwork (tapework?) on the part of Keiller to modify and extend his cuttings – more about these in a later post.

You can get a sense of the drift from the photograph below I took from the midpoint of the avenue on the southern boundary fence looking northwards towards Avebury.


Looking North towards Avebury through West Kennet Avenue.

So, using point R as the pivot (marking the 800’ point and north-eastern corner of block VIII – check out the sketch in post #3), he tilted the axis of the entire grid 6 degrees to the east. And then carried on.

Never missing a chance to repurpose a unique identifier, the original north-west corner of block VIII (point Q) was replaced by point Q* precisely 2.499m (8.2’) away. The corridor then trundled on until it met the boundary of the field long its northern edge, slowly intersecting the fenceline on the east as it did so. And that was essentially that.

Pivotting and plotting.

As a visual thinker, the plotting out by hand of the cuttings has proven invaluable in helping me to make sense of the complex textual descriptions and step-by-step annotated drawings in Keiller’s Plotting book. I now understand better not only what he had done, but how he went about doing it.

The next step will be to replicate this digitally in the GIS. The first stage in that process is going to be identifying points on the digital ground today (i.e. the Ordnance Survey map coverage) that correspond to points established in 1934 by Keiller. More of that in the next post

Blog Keiller cuttings

Pinning down the Keiller Cuttings – Part 3 (scheming and plotting)

This blog post is part of a series: read Part 1 here, and read Part 2 here.

I have a confession. Much as I admire his surveying chops, Keiller’s approach to numbering and labelling (stones, cuttings, whatever) leaves me sobbing.

Let me give you a flavour of what I mean. In an earlier post I mentioned that he liked to re-use letter codes for reference points and survey datums/stations. Taking 1934 as an example, ‘A’ and ‘B’ could refer to the mid and end point of the original line he surveyed running across the axis of the Avenue line or the points where the baselines bounding his 80’ wide corridor intersected the fence at the southernmost end of Mr. Peake-Garland’s Waden Hill Field. Take a look at the drawing below from the plotting book and you will see what I mean.

Where the survey blocks met the southernmost fence line crossing the field

But the real fun has yet to start. He numbered his individual 100 x 80’ survey blocks from south to north, using Roman numerals – I, II, III, IV etc… Each of these blocks in turn contained a total of sixteen 25 x 20’ sub-cuttings – four rows of four. The individual sub-cuttings were given Arabic numbers – also incrementing from south to north – and always indicated in superscript. To differentiate between the two rows of cuttings that ran up either side of the line of 100 x 80’ blocks – i.e. that theoretically tracked the lines of paired megaliths – he used L (Left) and R (Right). However, in deciding which side was Right and which Left, instead of facing north towards Avebury, he faced South, away from it. So… the 3rd cutting of the fourth block on the western side of the Avenue would be sub-cutting IV3R. Its partner on the eastern side would be IV3L. As for the two rows of 25 x 20’ cuttings running down the centre of the Avenue line Keiller added a C to indicate that a given code referred to a central sub-cutting (e.g IV3RC and IV3LC). It was so overwrought that the plotting book included a dedicated diagram to demystify it (see below). 

The key to Keiller’s labelling schema

And it gets worse. Keiller gave the corners of each 100 x 80’ block a letter code, moving up through the alphabet from south to north. The diagram I have sketched out below should hopefully clarify.

codes and datums everywhere

In his descriptions and in plotting book diagrams, the corners of the subdivisions of the cuttings are labelled with respect to these corner designations. So the 2nd sub-cutting on the ‘Right’ hand side of block VI would be designated VI2R and its corner points (moving clockwise) K1, K2, K2L and K1L. Take a look at the subdivision plan below (more on subdivisions and extensions in the next post) and you will get a sense of the complexity that is piling up – and this is just in laying out the trenches.

labelling the sub-cuttings

My final note on the coding relates to the individual standing stones themselves. Here Keiller took a refreshingly simple approach. Each megalith had its own number, starting at the southern extent of his excavation area with standing stone 1 and then incrementing as he moved northwards towards Avebury. So, the southernmost stone pair in Waden Hill Field = stones 1 and 2. The next pair to the north 3 and 4, and so on. Odd numbers on the Right (western) side, even numbers on the Left (eastern) side.

When Isobel Smith produced her synthetic publication of the Avenue excavations, she renumbered. Instead of individual megaliths, she numbered stone pairs (using A to indicate Left and B to indicate Right). She also flipped the numbering strategy on its head, starting at Avebury with Pair 1 and incrementing as one moves south. The logic was faultless: there were undoubtedly more stones waiting to be discovered to the south of Keiller’s Pair 1 and 2, and her approach allowed meaningful numbers to be assigned to them. Irony is in the eye of the beholder, but for me it did add a layer of complexity to what was probably Keiller’s least torturous schema.

That’s me done for now. In the next post we will look at what Keiller did when things did not go to plan (no pun intended).

Read Part 4 of this series by clicking here.


Behind the scenes: homepage flat lay

Choosing a photograph for the homepage of this website was tricky. We wanted something that would represent a wide selection of items held at the Alexander Keiller Museum, while taking conservation requirements into account.

So, while we couldn’t mix paper and artefacts, we went for a selection of photographic prints, letters, diaries, and archaeological drawings.

Here’s what you can see on the Avebury Papers homepage, starting from the top left item working across, with further details about each item…

Various items from the Alexander Keiller Museum. There are 10 items and they are numbered according to their descriptions on this blog post. home page flat lay with numbers.

1. West Kennet Avenue Excavation Diary, 1934, accession number 78510467. Alexander Keiller and his team kept meticulous records during their excavations. We wanted to show an example of Keiller’s handwriting, and here we’ve opened the diary at a spread which shows a day entry on the left, and a list of gear loaned from ‘O of W’ (Office of Works) on the right. By the end of this project, handwritten diaries will be transcribed and searchable.

A spread from Alexander Keiller's diary from 1934, covering the West Kennet Avenue excavations. Keiller's handwriting is cursive and somewhat difficult to read!
West Kennet Avenue Excavation Diary, 1934, accession number 78510467.

2. A black and white print from 1939 of two standing stones, and two newly installed ‘obelisks’ to mark lost stones, with an early 20th century photograph number 39II24.

3. Three pen-and-ink drawings of flints, possibly made by H G O Kendall at Grimes Graves. These three drawings are pasted onto newspaper, and there are 84 such collages that are collectively accessioned to 88051603.

4. A postcard addressed to Alexander Keiller’s Berkeley Square home, with a postmark of 16 November 1924, accessioned with letters to Keiller at 78510455.

5. Photo Album A, open at page ‘000’, showing the West Kennet Avenue staff team in 1934, accession number 78510300. A key aim of the Avebury Papers is to identify these people and gather biographical information. Do you recognise anyone?

6. A photographic print of a flat lay of pottery dated to 1939, and accessioned with an early 20th century photograph number 39IV5. The letters ‘MIAR’ in the bottom right of this image stand for Morven Institute of Archaeological Research, the business that Keiller established for carrying out his archaeological activities.

Various items from the Alexander Keiller Museum including a cream postcard with a red stamp, addressed to Keiller; black and white detailed drawings of flints from Grimes Graves; three black and white photographs of the 1934 excavations at West Kennet Avenue, showing the members of the excavation team; and a flat lay arrangement of pottery.
Various items from the Alexander Keiller Museum archive.

7. The 1934 West Kennet Avenue excavations plotting book, accession number 78510469. The book is open at a spread showing – in very faint pencil – Keiller’s record of ‘Cutting XXI’. Today, we’d call a ‘cutting’ a ‘trench’. Keiller was idiosyncratic in how he extended trenches, sometimes adding ‘squares, rectangles, or parallelograms of extension’. In order to accurately map Keiller’s measurements onto a precise location, Mark has his work cut out translating imperial and analogue to digital and metric! You can read more about this activity in Mark’s blog series.

8. A stone supported by ropes and props, waiting for concrete to be poured at the base. The excavation staff devised pulley systems to support the megaliths as they were heaved from the ground and re-erected. This photo is dated to 1938, and accessioned with an early 20th century photograph number 38VIII24.

9. Workers excavating the ditch at Avebury, directed by Harold St George Gray for the British Association. The photograph was possibly taken by Gray, and is dated to 1908, with the accession number AVBAKP10.

A black and white photograph of seven workers excavating the ditch at Avebury in 1908. The people provide the sense of scale - the ditch is already extremely deep, four times the height of a man standing at the bottom, and there is still more to dig!
Workers at Avebury in 1908, accession number AVBAKP10.

10. Denis Grant King diary from Wednesday 31 August 1938, accession number 20001093. Grant King kept beautifully illustrated diaries, which add detail to 1930s Avebury. He was an accomplished archaeological draftsman, and his plans, sections, and drawings from the 1930s further make up a meticulous record of the excavations and findings.

This image is a close up of a spread in Denis Grant King's diary. The diary is handwritten in black ink - and Grant King has very neat handwriting. On the right hand page, King has drawn a neatly-labelled section of the Avebury henge and ditch in pen and ink.
Denis Grant King diary, showing the entry for Wednesday 31 August 1938, Alexander Keiller Museum accession number 20001093.