jueves, 3 de julio de 2014

Second 4,000 year old timber circle revealed (United Kigndom)

In the late 1990s two remarkable Bronze Age timber circles were discovered on Holme Beach, Norfolk (south-east England). One of these popularly known as – ‘Seahenge‘ – was excavated in 1998 and 1999.
Since the excavations the second circle has been monitored and evidence of damage by coastal processes has been recorded. In the last year dendrochronological (tree ring) dating has shown the timbers used to build this circle – ‘Holme II’ – were felled in the spring or summer of 2049 BCE, exactly the same time as those used to build ‘Seahenge’ and places the construction of both circles early in the Bronze Age.

Linked to burial rites

The tree ring dating project carried out over the past year provides further proof that the construction of the two 4,000 year old Bronze Age monuments must have been directly linked and in some way related to burial rites.
Although the second ancient circle was discovered at the same time as the famous ‘Seahenge’ it was never excavated, but left intact in it’s original coastal location. Exposed to the elements of sea and weather, it periodically reappears. Hover your mouse over the image to see the circle revealed

Dated to exact year of construction

Over the last 15 years, its gradual erosion has been closely monitored and recorded while dendrochronology tests were carried out in order to collect important information before it was lost forever. The project also means that the two timber circles are the only ones in the country to have been dated precisely by dendrochronology and to the exact year that they were constructed.

The architecture of a ritual space

It should first be explained that neither of these monuments are in fact henges. A henge specifically features a ring bank with the ditch on the inside. These circular monuments are better described as circular timber enclosures.
When first fully revealed by the sea ‘Holme II’ – was made up of four distinct elements. At its centre were two oak logs laid flat. These were surrounded by an oval of oak posts with oak branches woven between them. On the eastern side of the monument there was an arc of split oak timbers. Surrounding all the other elements was an outer palisade of split oak timbers, with the timbers set side-by-side.
Since 1999 coastal processes have damaged the second circle. By 2003 all the woven oak branches had been lost and in October 2003 one of the central logs was washed away. The second central log was dislodged by the sea in March 2004. From 1999 to May 2005 and between December 2010 and December 2013 the sediments around the palisade timbers were gradually eroded, leading to the exposure of more of the circle’s timbers. This erosion and the loss of timbers prompted the dating project.
The scientific research project on the ancient timbers was carried out by Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment Service, funded by English Heritage and undertaken with the agreement of site managers Norfolk Wildlife Trust and owners the Le Strange Estate.

A burial mound?

David Robertson, Historic Environment Officer at Norfolk County Council who ran the ‘Holme II’ dating project said: “The reasons why the second circle was built are not clear, but it may have formed part of a burial mound. The two central logs may originally have supported a coffin. The oval of posts and woven branches could have hidden the coffin from view before a mound was added, with the outer palisade acting as a revetment for the base of the mound.”
“As the timbers used in both timber circles were felled at the same time, the construction of the two monuments must have been directly linked. Seahenge is thought to have been a free standing timber circle, possibly to mark the death of an individual, acting as a cenotaph, symbolising death rather than the actual location for burial. If part of a burial mound, the second circle would have been the actual burial place.”

Dating Seahenge
Dendrochronological evidence provided by Cathy Groves on ‘Holme I’ (Seahenge), indicated that the trees had to have been felled in either 2454 BCE, 2049 BCE or 2019 BCE whilst radiocarbon displayed a date range of between 2200 BCE and 2000 BCE for their felling. Using the Bayesian estimation however, an English Heritage team led by Dr Alex Bayliss combined the dendrochronological and radiocarbon dates to reveal that the trees had been felled in the year 2049 BCE. Now, the second circle has been dated to exactly the same year, the connection is absolute and presents an intriguing window into ritual and belief in the early Bronze Age.
3-D imaging allowed archaeologists to measure the exact axe curvature and width of each blade that had made a cut in the timber on ‘Holme I’ revealing that 59 different ones had been used. This indicates major community involvement in the construction of the two monuments.
It is hoped the project results will be published in full in the near future.

Preservation and Loss

‘Seahenge’ is currently undergoing conservation treatment at the Mary Rose Centre in Portsmouth. When this work is completed, the treated timbers will be displayed in the refurbished Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, from early 2008. Treatment of the timbers takes some time and it is anticipated that the large central tree stump will not be ready for display for some years. Consideration is therefore being given to producing a replica of the stump until conservation on the original timber has been completed.
‘Holme II’ will one day be completely lost to the elements, as the tides rise over this coastal site.

Source: Past Horizons: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2014/second-4000-year-old-timber-circle-revealed

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