|10 August 2013
Neolithic 'halls of the dead' found in England
The remains of two large halls, both deliberately burnt down and their remains incorporated in two prehistoric burial mounds, have been discovered in Herefordshire (England). Likely to have been long structures - with aisles framed by upright posts, and with internal partitions - they are thought to have been constructed between 4000 and 3600 BCE.
Julian Thomas, professor of archaeology from the University of Manchester and co-director of the excavation, said: "These early Neolithic halls are already extremely rare, but to find them within a long barrow is the discovery of a lifetime."
Archaeologists have long speculated that a close relationship existed between houses and tombs in Neolithic Europe, and that 'houses of the dead' amounted to representations of the 'houses of the living'.
In addition to the two long mounds, the site has provided evidence for a series of later burials and other deliberate deposits, including a cremation burial and a pit containing a flint axe and a finely-flaked flint knife - objects with close affinities to artefacts found in eastern Yorkshire in the Late Neolithic (circa 2600 BCE).
Doctor Keith Ray, the other co-director of the excavation and Herefordshire Council's County Archaeologist, said: "The axe and knife may not have been traded, but placed there as part of a ceremony or an ancestral pilgrimage from what is now East Yorkshire.
Edited from BBC News, EurekAlert!, PhysOrg (30 July 2013)
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