|10 June 1999
Seahenge taken out of the beach
Seahenge is a Bronze Age circle of wooden posts, recently discovered by a local nature warden when the peat dune covering it was swept away in the Norfolk coast (England).
Seahenge is thought to be at least 4,000 years old and would originally have stood on dry ground. Now this site, formed by 55 oak timber posts completely encircling an upturned oak tree, is being taken out of the beach because of the risk of being severely damaged by the sea and visitor pressure.
It is one of the most enthralling archaeological discoveries in our time, said Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage, who are organising the dig. The henge will be lost if it is left where it is because of the continual erosion along this stretch of coast. The first priority is to safeguard it from the ravages of the sea and ensure a proper record of the timbers is made.
The 56 wooden posts will be removed and taken to a laboratory near Peterborough for examination. They will be returned to West Norfolk after the work is complete. The excavation project is difficult because the site is covered by the sea every high tide.
After their removal, the posts will be submerged in water tanks to prevent them from deterioration. Forensic work will include a general examination of the timbers, a study of tool marks, dating of the wood and examination of the activities of prehistoric insects.
David Miles, Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage, said: Lifting, recording and analysing all the timber will transform our knowledge of prehistoric religion and prehistoric sites. The evocative structure, forming a symbolic tree, stands at the boundary of earth, sky and sea. To prehistoric people it probably represented a channel to the gods of the underworld and the heavens.
The removal of Seahenge has met strong local opposition. Inhabitants of the nearby village from Holme-next-the-Sea told they want it left where it is. However, Philip Walker, of English Heritage, says they have consulted widely with other organisations involved, including Norfolk County Council, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, English Nature, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the private owners of the land on which the timber circle was found, who have all agreed that this is the best option for the site.
Sources: BBC News, English Heritage News
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