|14 August 2004
Carved figure may be linked to Seahenge
Archaeologists revealed that a carved wooden figure could shed new light on what a Bronze Age grave site may have looked like. Scientists have carbon-dated the relic, found at Dagenham in the Thames Estuary (Engfand) in 1922, and discovered that it dates back to the same period as the older of two timber circles at Holme Beach, Hunstanton, in Norfolk. Archaeologists now believe that instead of being composed of plain wooden posts, parts of the bronze age timber circle may have been decorated with carvings.
The carved figure, which dates back to 2200 BCE and is believed to be the earliest representation of a human figure in existence, has a rounded head with eyes, nostrils and a mouth. It has no arms but does have a pair of legs and rounded buttocks.
Mike Pitts, editor of the British Archaeology Magazine said he believes that two wooden posts in the centre of the timber circle could have been similar carvings to the Dagenham figure. "All we have now are the bits that were underground but these are round posts just like the Dagenham figure. Because the date of the circle is identical to the figure it tells us that people were carving human figures in wood at that time. It helps us imagine what they might have looked like but it doesn’t help us understand what happened there,” he said.
Since the first circle – which became known as Seahenge – emerged from the sand in 1998, it has been thought both circles were bronze age grave sites. "In both cases it doesn’t look like they were actually burial sites but just a place where bodies rested above ground, hidden from view behind the wooden posts," Mr Pitts said. He said there would have been similar circles across northern Europe but a unique set of circumstances had preserved the two relics at Holme.
The timber circles stood on what was once saltmarsh protected from the sea by sand dunes. They were eventually covered over by the dunes but rising sea levels have eroded the sand dunes exposing the ancient peat underneath. Mr Pitts believes there may be more of the ancient landscape still to be discovered. Mark Brennand, who led the Seahenge excavation, said: "We may be looking at the very last elements of it and the rest's out to sea, or we may be looking at the beginnings of it to the landward side."
Sources: EDP24 News, Scotsman.com (13 August 2004)
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