Part of a horned skull of a deer that may have been used in rituals.

A Neolithic henge in Suffolk

Archaeologists who unearthed a 'phenomenal' Neolithic henge complex, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, six months ago have been uncovering exciting finds.

The 4000-year-old henge – a circular monument dating to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages – consists of a ditch with an external earthwork and a burial mound at the centre, explained the Project Manager Vinny Monahan of Archaeological Solutions in Bury St Edmunds. The henge ditch has a 'perfectly preserved' walkway, said Monahan, made of wood that, in some places, is 'as good as the day it was placed in the earth. You can see tool marks, and… whether they were left-handed or right-handed,' he added. The discovery of this large ceremonial complex is, he said 'phenomenal' and one of 'international significance'.

Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the wood laid down for this Neolithic trackway dates to circa 2300 BC. Timber posts found suggest that the walkway may have led to a platform. The team has also uncovered the horned skull of an aurochs, a large, now extinct, wild ox, which seemed to have been cut so that it could sit on top of a pole or be used in a ritual. The skull has been dated as 2300 years older than the trackway itself, which suggests that it was a revered object that had been brought here deliberately. Part of a second horned skull, of a deer, has also been discovered and was probably used for similar ritual purposes, like those found at Star Carr in Yorkshire.

The natural water springs near the dig kept this trackway in good condition, and their presence may also explain why this particular site was chosen as 'a special place' more than 4000 years ago.

The henge area was found along East Anglia ONE, a cable route for an offshore wind farm, funded by Scottish Energy (Iberdrola). ScottishPower Renewables said that as a result of the finds, it was altering the 23-mile (34-km) cable route to go round the excavated area. which is 30 miles (48km) off the coast. As the site is one of 50 along the cable route, soon archaeologists may make other 'phenomenal' discoveries.

Lindsay Fulcher

 



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