|12 December 2017
Glimpse of Britain's Neolithic civilization
Around 140 kilometres west-southwest of London, midway between the monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, an extraordinary Early Neolithic long barrow known as Cat's Brain was excavated this past summer by the University of Reading Archaeology Field School. The site likely dates to around 3,800 BCE.
It has long been assumed that Neolithic long barrows are funerary monuments. They are often described as 'houses of the dead' due to their similarity in shape to the long houses occupied by those living at the time, but limited evidence for human remains from many of these monuments calls this interpretation into question.
Indeed, the excavations at Cat's Brain failed to find any human remains, instead revealing a surprisingly large timber hall, suggesting that it was very much a 'house for the living'. Measuring almost 20 metres long and 10 metres wide at the front, it was built with posts and beams raised over deeply cut foundation trenches. Some of the timbers were colossal, and it's general appearance is that of a robust building with its entrance centred in an impressively large facade, and interior space for considerable numbers of people.
Timber halls appear to have lasted two or three generations before being deliberately destroyed or abandoned.
Towards the end of excavations, researchers uncovered two decorated chalk blocks which had been placed in a posthole during the construction of the hall.
Edited from Newsweek (20 November 2017), The Conversation (20 November 2017), Salon (3 December 2017)
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