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24 January 2010
Seahenge set to be complete

An iconic ancient monument uncovered by the tides on a Norfolk beach (England) will soon be complete for the first time in a decade. Scientists have been studying and preserving the Seahenge timber circle since it was excavated at Holme, near Hunstanton, in early 1999. There were protests after archaeologists decided to remove the upturned oak stump and ring of 55 posts from the sands. But the 4000-year-old structure shed new light on how our ancestors lived, showing Bronze Age society was more advanced than had previously been believed.
     Thousands have been to see the timbers, which went on show two years ago at King's Lynn Museum. Experts had spent nearly a decade drying out the posts and immersing them in special wax. But the much larger central stump - an upturned tree which may have formed an altar - took a further two years to be preserved by maritime archaeologists at the Mary Rose Trust, in Portsmouth. Now the stump is ready to be installed at the centre of the timber circle. Lynn Museum will close for four months from January 30 to allow the work to take place.
     Derrick Murphy, Norfolk's cabinet member for cultural services, said: "Why our ancestors built Seahenge remains a mystery, yet we can state categorically that it is one of the most significant historical discoveries ever to be found in Britain. The installation of the central stump within the gallery at the Lynn Museum marks a fitting end to this chapter of the story of Seahenge. We are certain that the exciting display of this unique find will be of huge interest to both local people and visitors to the area."
     Following a major redevelopment, the Lynn Museum reopened to the public in April 2008, with a new gallery devoted to Seahenge. Since then thousands of visitors have flocked to view the timbers. Archaeologists at Flag Fen, near Peterborough, dated the stump to the spring of 2049 BCE. Axe marks in the trunk showed metal tools were far more common than had previously been believed, while the number of people involved in building the circle showed society was more organised than had been thought.
     The museum will re-open in early summer. During part of the closure, the nearby Town House Museum will be open and will offer free admission from February to March.

Sources: EDP24, BBC News (12 January 2010)

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