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31 March 2008
Seahenge 'returns home'

The famous timber circle dating back 4,000 years which was found in the sea off the Norfolk coast (England) is to return to the county in a permanent display. Seahenge, with 55 oak posts and a central upturned stump dating from the Bronze Age, was found emerging from a beach at Holme-next-the-Sea in 1998. Timbers were studied at the Bronze Age Centre, Peterborough, then preserved at the Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth. Next month Seahenge will go on display at the Lynn Museum in King's Lynn.
     After Seahenge was excavated, 3D laser scanning revealed the earliest metal tool marks on wood ever discovered in Britain. Archaeologists at the Bronze Age Centre, believe between 50 and 80 people may have helped build the circle, possibly to mark the death of an important individual. Seahenge became exposed at low tides after the peat dune covering it was swept away by winter storms.
     Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Norfolk County Council has been provided for the Seahenge Gallery project at the Lynn Museum which will house the timber, displayed in its original formation.
The central stump, which is still being treated, will join the gallery at a later date. The main display at the museum is mirrored by a full-sized fibreglass replica showing how the structure would have appeared when it was constructed in 2049 BCE, complete with a model of a Bronze Age man. Visitors can enter and explore this area.
     Lynn Museum project manager Hannah Jackson said mystery still surrounds what prompted the Bronze Age people to create the circle. "The upturned stump could have been like a table top on which the body of a very important member of the community who had died would be laid out for the birds and animals to pick the flesh off. Then they would remove the bones for burial elsewhere, and that fits in with what we know of Bronze Age burial rites," she said.
     John Gretton, of Norfolk County Council, said: "Whilst the research done on the timbers has led to some historians drawing conclusions, the original function of Seahenge remains mysterious, and I hope that visitors will flock to the newly restored Lynn Museum to speculate on the ancient meaning behind the timbers - which we were able to rescue for all time from further damage."
     The museum opens Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Admission is 3 adults, 2.50 concessions and 1.65 for four to 16-year-olds.

Sources: BBC News (25 March 2008), Lynn New (28 March 2008)

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