|30 April 2000
Back to the Neolithic
Archaeologists recently uncovered the site of a Neolithic henge on the edge of the village of Milfield in northern Northumberland (England) and excavated the foundations of this ceremonial monument. On the site of the henge, a group of eight grown men and four women dressed in animal skins, loin cloths and hessian robes have set up a camp living as their ancestors did 4,500 years ago.
This is a project funded by the EU and English Heritage to recreate the henge and open it as a tourist attraction this summer. "Then we came up with the idea of trying to build the henge under exactly the same conditions as Neolithic tribes would have faced," explains Clive Waddington, archaeologist and co-director of the project. "That meant eating only the food that they would eat, wearing the clothes and living as a group in a temporary shelter. People thought we were mad, that it couldn't be done, especially as I was determined to get people from all walks of life involved, not just archaeology students. Once I'd found the volunteers and we'd planned everything in detail, recreating what life must have been like for the henge builders became a reality."
In the first week of the camp it rained for 80 hours solid. "The physical scale of building a henge 30 metres across is enormous, never mind if you only give people Stone Age tools," says Waddington. "We wanted them to try to do all the digging with shovels fashioned from ox shoulder bone and rakes made from branches of trees. In the end we had to rely on mechanical help for about 90 per cent of it, but that still left 10 per cent to us, which is no mean feat. Before we started this project, local people were unaware of the rich archaeological heritage of their own area. Then the discovery of the henge was made and lots of people volunteered to help with the excavation. The aim is to open the henge this summer with a time trail leading up to the site to help people understand the different stages in the region's history."
Many of the volunteers say that they have begun to get a sense of what life 4,500 years ago must have been like; the dependence on the weather and the landscape gives them a new understanding of the significance of a henge - they were used for pagan rituals that were rooted in nature - to the community..
Source: The Sunday Times (21 April, 2000)
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