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 happening in Norfolk and the Fenlands over the past 20 years, and during which the writer has performed a principal role.

One of the main haunting and enigmatic archaeological discoveries of contemporary instances was once 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 old 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 cost of the panorama, their faith and rituals. The well-known wetland websites of the East Anglian Fens have preserved ten occasions the knowledge in their dryland opposite numbers like Stonehenge and Avebury, within the kind of pollen, leaves, wooden, hair, epidermis and fibre stumbled 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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It's extra possible that particular ditch segments could were re-excavated whilst the senior family members notion the collective reminiscence was once transforming into dim, or while the kinfolk had grown both too huge or too small, and new alliances with different households have been shaped. The shared histories of the hot relatives grouping will be re-enacted earlier than an viewers of the adults of the mixed new kinfolk, and a brand new set of choices (representing the hot historical past) might then be positioned within the flooring and buried, as prior to. we will purely wager on the frequency of those events, yet perhaps they occurred each 3 or 4 generations. simply because those reworkings of kin historical past happened so now and again, it’s attainable to work out precise technique of evolution, or improvement, used to be occurring within the manner humans expressed their symbolic language. Let’s go back for a second to the unique rite, as I imagined it at the foundation of the excavated facts. We left on the aspect while the senior member of the Fox kin had laid the severed fox head at the backside of the trench, the wrong way up. subsequent to the fox was once one other head, this time a synthetic one. It consisted of a round-bottomed Mildenhall bowl that had additionally been positioned within the floor upside-down. It was once exactly the similar measurement and form as a human cranium, and it even fooled us once we first stumbled on it. related ‘fake’ pot-skulls are recognized from different causewayed enclosures in Europe. subsequent to the upside-down pot was once a embellished antler-comb, and past small flat-based bowl, additionally whole, yet this time the suitable method up. I’m now not approximately to aim one other activity of what myths or kin heritage those choices may need represented, yet they took the shape of a chain of relatively particular ‘statements’, prepared in a line directly down the centre of the trench. So, in symbolic phrases they have been united through being in a ditch and in a transparent line, yet there has been area among them. This development of separate yet aligned choices used to be usually present in the 1st section of ditch-digging. within the subsequent section, maybe 3 or 4 generations later, the gravel was once back got rid of, yet in simple terms so far as the turf, or another marker that has lengthy on account that vanished. The diggers have been tremendous cautious to not disturb the 1st set of choices, which have been left within the flooring, intact. To have performed so may were to infringe not only own house, yet whatever way more strong – no longer rather a lot a symbolic illustration of the family’s historical past because the kinfolk itself. the second one time the trench used to be opened, the recut ditch was once smaller. This used to be not only as the previous choices have been within the means – the diggers have been completely able to enlarging the trench in the event that they had to. i'm confident that the diminished recutting of the trench was once as the choices of the second one section have been themselves smaller. for instance, rather than a whole cranium on the finish of a ditch, we discovered simply the frontal (forehead) bone. however the ridges above the orbits, or eye sockets, confirmed that the eyes have been located to stare on the causeway, simply as sooner than.

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