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A HENGE – or Prehistoric monument – may have been unearthed on the outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford.
Archaeologists investigating sites earmarked for thousands of new homes on the town’s ASRs – areas of special restraint – believe they could have found a Neolithic earthwork in the form of a ritual enclosure on the site along the A120 bypass.
The land – ASRs 1 to 4 – is the subject of a planning application by the Bishop’s Stortford North Consortium of developers and as part of the scheme, a series of trial trenches have been dug to investigate and evaluate their historic potential.
Similar work is being undertaken on ASR 5, which is the subject of a smaller application by Countryside Properties, close to Hazel End.
A report by the county council’s historic environment unit says: “Although these investigations are still ongoing (some of the trial trenches are visible from the Bishop’s Stortford bypass and Farnham and Hazel End Roads), some interesting archaeology has been identified in both prospective development areas.
“Interpretation is tentative at this stage but the Hazel End site, involving trenches on both fields alongside Hazel End Road, has identified the remains of a probable burial mound, of Late Neolithic (c4500-2500BC) or Early Bronze Age date (c2500-1700BC) several ditches, pits and post-holes of probable Bronze Age date, and, in the lower field next to the River Stort, a roughly cobbled surface covered with Late Iron Age and Roman pottery.
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Excavations at the site of the former MOD Headquarters at Durrington have revealed deposits dating to the Late Upper Palaeolithic (Late Glacial) c. 12,000BC and evidence of human activity from the late Neolithic (2550-2200 BC) through to the modern period, with the main focus of activity dating from the Late Iron Age c.100BC to Romano-British period (AD43-410). The site is located within an archaeologically rich landscape just 1km north of the Neolithic Durrington Walls henge and between the Romano-British settlements at Figheldean and at the Packway enclosure to the north and south respectively.
Two monumental Neolithic posthole alignments, which appeared to follow the contours of high ground, contained Grooved Ware pottery. Potentially contemporary with these alignments was a natural swallow hole or sink hole 25m across which had been consolidated with a flint pebble surface which created a metalled platform covered with flint knapping debris and a broken late Neolithic flint axehead or chisel. In the Iron Age, the site comprised a number of paddocks and small fields, formed by shallow gullies and ditches.
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Here is a nice long clip from the DVD – all about henges. It just so happens that the most important of them occur within a quite small distance from one another in the South of England. Now, the two sites in the film that actually have the word ‘henge’ in their name turn out to be NOT true henges in the sense that the word has come to be accepted. As is shown in the film, although the word originally derives from the name ‘Stonehenge’, it turns out that Stonehenge itself is an anomaly amongst ‘henges’ and does not now count as one – strictly speaking. Woodhenge ‘may’ have been a henge – but was so named long before it was discovered that the post holes that make up all that is now visible of the site was surrounded by a raised mound. As for places like ‘Seahenge‘ for example – well, it becomes clear that the tag ‘henge’ is easily used by the media to indicate that a new discovery – whether of rock, wood or earth – is a pretty ancient one.
This section of the film gave me an opportunity to go to town with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and do my best to produce some watchable reconstructions of how the sites MAY have looked. The two ‘true’ henges that are featured – Avebury and Stanton Drew – really are wonders. Avebury is, of course, the most visually spectacular of the two today, but as Rupert and I found out more about what was lurking beneath the soil of the farm field that the stone circle of Stanton Drew inhabits, so our imagination was spurred and led to a surprising idea about their purpose. So, I’m not going to spoil it for you now, but let me just say that, however radical our thoughts may seem, they did not come from nothing. Our main suggestion is supported by evidence from other sites and most notably by Mike Pitts observations about the excavations at Durrington Walls in his book ‘Hengeworld‘. Most of all though, it was the privilege of spending time at these places – being present to their grandeur and scale as a human being that gave rise to our speculations. And speculations is all they are. We don’t pretend to have any answers – we’re not experts – but we do hope that a little “thinking outside the box” can inspire ideas that really do crack the mystery of these wonderful places.
“SCIENTISTS have unearthed what appears to be a mammoth wooden version of the famous Stonehenge monument at the Hill of Tara.
In a revealing new RTE documentary, many theories and insights into the country’s prehistoric past and 150,000 ancient monuments are unveiled and explained.
For the first time, people will be able to view a computer-generated recreation of what archaeologists believe was a major wooden structure — a version of Britain’s Stonehenge — at the ancient seat of the Irish high kings in the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
Archaeologist Joe Fenwick revealed a LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) laser beam had been used to scan the ground surface to create a three-dimensional map, which revealed more than 30 monuments around Tara.
Using another technique — described as taking an X-ray through the hillside — archaeologists discovered the huge monument, a ditch stretching six metres wide and three metres deep in the bedrock.
The ditch, circling the Mound of the Hostages passage tomb, separated the outside world from the ceremonial centre of Tara.
It was believed the ancient architects had also surrounded the ditch with a massive wooden structure on each side — a version of Stonehenge — on a large scale. Its sheer size meant a whole forest would have had to be cleared to build it.
“In scale, it is comparable, for example, to Croke Park’s pitch. The Hill of Tara had enormous ritual significance over the course of 5,000-6,000 years, so it’s not surprising that you get monuments of the scale of the ditch pit circle,” said Mr Fenwick, from the Department of Archaeology, NUI Galway.
Cutting-edge technology is helping to provide a new insight into the lives of our ancestors, according to the documentary makers behind ‘Secrets of the Stones’.
It shows Ireland’s first civilisation began 7,000 years ago, they withstood major climatic changes and voyaged throughout Europe, returning with new religions and mementos.
An RTE spokesman said the broadcaster, along with the Department of Education, would be sending two free copies of the book accompanying the series to all second-level schools in the country.
The first part of the ‘Secrets of the Stones’ will be shown on RTE One at 6.30pm on Easter Monday.”
Original article here.
“The passing centuries have left many ancient sites with a mysterious anonymity. We respect them, but we don’t understand them and their social importance ha long since disappeared. We protect them and ignore them – in equal measure.
Knowlton Henge is a perfect example. This Bronze Age site is part of an enormous settlement that sprawls across the surrounding countryside. It’s hard to see a lot of it now, but this raised mound originally rose an astonishing seventeen feet out of the ditch around it.
The careful placing of this Norman church would have been a very powerful way of putting an end to any earlier non Christian goings-on. Now, its crumbling ruin sits like a weary trespasser on unguarded land”.
“Well, yesterday we finally completed the excavation of the larger northern ditch trench. In all honesty it looked absolutely spectacular.
It certainly took us a lot of time and energy simply removing its soft silts and fill. Completely rock-cut, the ditch in this sector is deep, very broad and flat-bottomed.
Working at its base makes you realise just how impressive this monument must have appeared when it was first excavated back in the third millennium BC.
Similarly, you appreciate the sheer scale of labour that was involved in cutting through the rock to form the ditch, let alone in quarrying and moving the stones forming the circle.
The colours of rock have been influenced by water logging so the orange brown Orkney flagstones gives way to a deep grey-blue near the base of the ditch.
Strangely enough this actually gives the appearance of water standing in the ditch bottom. From this evidence it is quite clear that in the northern area, at least, standing water collected soon after the ditch was dug. This may seem strange, but it is worth remembering that the surrounding ditch was cut to enclose the area of the stone circle and in the Orcadian island world water surrounded islands and people. Therefore, the use of water to create a division – to separate it from the rest of the world – was an appropriate strategy employing everyday imagery.”
For full article by Colin Richards go to: http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/ringofbrodgar/index.html
The image above of the Ring of Brodgar includes computer generated ‘missing’ stones occupying stone sockets discovered only yesterday by the 2008 excavation team.
“An exciting day today, with Norma and Adrian Challands confirming the presence of no less that 19 stone sockets, running from the edge of Trench C, clockwise past the south-eastern causeway, to Trench A. Including the surviving stones and stumps, this means 36 stones once stood in that section (roughly half) of the stone circle.
The sockets were placed at a distance three metres apart. The number hints that the Ring of Brodgar could have contained more than the 60 it has long been believed to contain.
A survey of the final section will be required to confirm this.”
For the original article and more pictures: http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/ringofbrodgar/index.html
Excavations at the Ring of Brodgar began on 9th July, 2008.
“The Ring of Brodgar is one of the largest Neolithic stone circles in Britain. Yet we know surprisingly little about it – in particular its age.
This summer, for the first time in 35 years, archaeologists are carrying out excavations at the Ring, hoping to answer a number of long-standing questions. . .”
“The Ring stands on the Ness of Brodgar, a low-lying isthmus, separating the lochs of Harray and Stenness, centrally placed within the large natural bowl of western Mainland, Orkney.
However, when it comes to the Ring of Brodgar very little is actually known about this amazing site – instead interpretation has been constructed on the basis of the characteristics of other sites.”
As a ‘monument’ the Ring of Brodgar is not alone. Together with the Stones of Stenness, a much smaller stone circle set within an enclosing ditch, it forms part of a monumental group, which also includes Maeshowe and a number of standing stones.
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