Seahenge: a quest for life and death in Bronze Age Britain

By Francis Pryor

A energetic and authoritative research into the lives of our ancestors, in line with the revolution within the box of Bronze Age archaeology which has been occurring in Norfolk and the Fenlands over the past two decades, and within which the writer has performed a imperative role.

One of the main haunting and enigmatic archaeological discoveries of contemporary occasions used to be the uncovering in 1998 at low tide of the so-called Seahenge off the north coast of Norfolk. This circle of wood planks set vertically within the sand, with a wide inverted tree-trunk within the center, likened to a ghostly ‘hand attaining up from the underworld’, has now been dated again to round 2020 BC. The timbers are presently (and controversially) within the author’s safekeeping at Flag Fen.

Francis Pryor and his spouse (an specialist in historic wood-working and research) were on the centre of Bronze Age fieldwork for almost 30 years, piecing jointly the way of living of Bronze Age humans, their payment of the panorama, their faith and rituals. The well-known wetland websites of the East Anglian Fens have preserved ten instances the data in their dryland opposite numbers like Stonehenge and Avebury, within the kind of pollen, leaves, wooden, hair, dermis and fibre chanced on ‘pickled’ in dust and peat.

Seahenge demonstrates how a lot Western civilisation owes to the prehistoric societies that existed in Europe within the final 4 millennia BC.

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The turves have been relatively thick, and within the means of being minimize an excellent percentage of the topsoil used to be got rid of. yet that used to be now not all. while, thick turves were lower from the centre of the henge. De-turfing was once in actual fact a massive a part of prehistoric ceremonial, and turves might even have been worthy for the development of standard, daily structures. In parts resembling the Welland valley, the place stone wasn’t universal, turf could have supplied a really applicable and unusually sturdy construction ‘stone’. however it will be a mistake to imagine that the removing of turf from less than a barrow mound was once only for functional purposes. Turf stripping is tough paintings, inspite of a pointy metal spade. It makes no functional feel to de-turf a space the place you must construct a mound. I see de-turfing as an act of detoxification or purification that needed to ensue ahead of convinced vital rites and ceremonies may perhaps ensue. back, we're seeing a profound problem for the floor and for land. the folks of Neolithic instances didn't imagine exclusively when it comes to what was once within the sky or above their heads. The earth had existence too. the subsequent part was once one in every of building. The developers dug the bedding-trench and post the posts round the oval constitution. They dug the outer ditch of the nice Henge and erected a financial institution on its periphery. additionally they dug the primary ring-ditch and positioned banks on its internal part. whereas the ditch-digging used to be occurring additionally they heaped a turf mound over the world that they had de-turfed on the centre. i might think that this critical mound incorporated saved turves reduce from the vital quarter, and most likely from the oval constitution too. The 3rd section was once destruction. The timbers of the oval constitution have been burnt. The banks that followed the interior and outer ditches have been partly thrown again into the ditches, in order that they have been half-filled in. within the fourth and ultimate part the physique was once put in what used to be left of the oval constitution and a dumped topsoil barrow was once put over the whole lot. in the crucial ring-ditch a wide mound, additionally of dumped topsoil, used to be put over the whole principal sector, overlaying either the broken banks and the vital turf mound. we're witnessing the following episodes of development, destruction and reconstruction which echo what was once occurring in stone-using parts reminiscent of Avebury and Salisbury simple. individuals are time and again returning to a distinct position to do designated issues. it's a procedure that's performed for its personal sake. however it turns out to me that the paintings that went into the development, destruction and next amendment of the good Henge at Maxey was once much less daunting than comparable procedures in stone-using components. Maisie reckons that the oval mortuary-structure wall contained approximately 156 square-dressed posts. The oak used had rather thick annual growth-rings (about ten millimetres), which might recommend that the bushes got here from secondary forest – wooded area that had regrown after a part of felling possibly fifty years formerly. timber during this type of wooded area develop quickly, as there's lots of gentle and moisture to be had.

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