Skip to comments.Druids Despair As Seahenge Set For Dry Berth
Posted on 11/20/2001 9:49:22 AM PST by blam
Druids despair as Seahenge set for dry berth
November 19 2001 at 04:16PM
London - A Bronze Age timber circle dug up on a beach two years ago should not be returned to its original site, where it would be vulnerable to the forces of the North Sea, English Heritage said on Monday.
The 4 000-year-old structure, which became known as Seahenge, was found off the coast of Norfolk, north-east England, and removed despite prolonged protests by locals and Druid groups, who said the circle was a religious monument.
English Heritage, the preservation group that oversaw and financed the removal of the 54 oak posts which surrounded an upturned tree stump, said the prehistoric structure was in danger of being destroyed by the sea.
The organisation is talking with the timber circle's owner, le Strange Estate, and local groups about the chances of putting the structure on public display and will hold a public meeting on its recommendation later this month.
Three-dimensional laser scanning techniques are giving archeologists new insights into the circle, which has been dated to the spring of 2049 BC, when the trees were cut down to create the posts.
The research has so far indicated that the community which built the structure was more advanced and organised than previously believed.
"It is remarkable that this tiny community was able to lay hands on such a large number of tools only about 100 years after the knowledge of how to make bronze arrived in this country," said Francis Pryor, director of archaeology at Flag Fen Archaeological Center, where the scanning is being done.
English Heritage estimated it would take five years and cost £40 000 (about R550 000) to complete the conservation process. - Sapa-AP
Bronze Age origin for Seahenge.(of England)(Brief Article)
Issue: Dec 11, 1999
A nature warden walking along an isolated stretch of the eastern English coast in August 1998 came upon a startling, slightly eerie sight. With the tide drawn back, the huge, inverted stump of an oak tree appeared, inserted like a giant peg in the marshy soil. A ring of 55 oak posts surrounded the stump, forming a rough circle about 21 feet across.
The sea had gradually washed away a peat layer that had protected the mysterious wooden circle, exposing it to the damaging effects of saltwater and air. Local officials quickly contacted English Heritage, a London-based organization specializing in archaeological and historical matters. At that point, scientists recorded the site's layout and brought the threatened timber to a laboratory for study and preservation.
A new analysis shows that the timber circle--dubbed Seahenge, in a nod to England's famous Stonehenge site--dates to more than 4,000 years ago. The tree that provided the central stump either died or was felled in the spring of 2050 B.C., and the oaks for the surrounding posts were chopped down the next spring, according to a report in the Dec. 2 NATURE.
Thus, construction of the timber circle occurred at the start of Europe's Bronze Age, when metal tools and weapons debuted. "These people were farmers who cleared much of Britain's forest land, and now we've dated one of their religious temples," says David Miles, chief archaeologist of English Heritage.
Initial tree-ring analyses failed to yield a precise date for the timber circle. A tree adds a ring for each year of its life, and that ring achieves greater thickness when the climate favors growth. Comparisons of thickness patterns of tree rings with ice-core and other data on a region's past climate changes often can produce an age estimate for a tree. Researchers could not find clear links between the oak stump's rings and Britain's past weather swings, but all was not lost.
Radiocarbon analyses of the central oak indicated that it had died between 2200 B.C. and 2000 B.C., says Alex Bayliss of English Heritage. Bayliss' team then used a mathematical model to identify particularly strong consistencies between the tree-ring and radiocarbon findings. This allowed them to pinpoint the death dates for the stump and surrounding posts to a period of a few months in 2050 B.C. and 2049 B.C., respectively.
The central oak may have blown over in a storm, since it bears no ax marks, Miles says. Microscopic examination of the stump indicates that people hauled it into position with ropes made of honeysuckle. Broad gashes on the bark-covered outer posts resemble damage done by Early Bronze Age axes.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Science Service, Inc
From the BBC:
Larger picture from a website detailing neolithic sites in the UK:
If whoever build this thing did so in a place that was under water at high tide, wouldn't the wood have rotted away before being preserved in peat?
I just remembered something I read about England some time back. I saw a map that showed where the Ice Age glaciers covered only half of England and the northern part had subsided under the weight of the ice and that even to this day the northern part was still rising and the southern part was sinking. This would explain why it is under water. It was originally built on high dry ground and then sank?
Maybe if we changed the choreography.
Or the land itself moves up and down. Or a combination.
After centuries of neglect in the wake of first Roman and then Christian suppression, the Druids were rediscovered during the Renaissance when the revival of interest in ancient Greek and Latin writers brought attention to the works of Pliny, Tacitus, and Julius Caesar and their descriptions of the Celtic world. First in France in the sixteenth century, and then in England, the ancient Celts (or Gauls as they were known in France) and Druids were claimed as historical ancestors. By the seventeenth century, a new romantic image of Druids began to emerge in French and English literature.
In England as early as 1624 the Celtic warrior queen Boudicca is credited by Edmond Bolton with building Stonehenge as her monument. Although other English writers at this time refused to acknowledge anything worthwhile in Celtic culture, and the architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), in his The Most Remarkable Antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stone-Henge, Restored, compiled from his notes by his son-in-law John Webb and published in 1655, would conclude that "Stonehenge was no work of the Druids" (he claimed instead that it had been built by the Romans, see "Stonehenge Restorations"), the link between the Druids and Stonehenge had nonetheless been forged in the popular imagination.
Already by 1649, John Aubrey had suggested that the Druids were probably responsible for building Stonehenge, a theme he developed into a book originally to be titled 'Templa Druidum' but which ultimately formed a chapter in his Monumenta Britannica. In the early 18th century, Aubrey's views became known to William Stukeley who not only declared Stonehenge (and Avebury) to be a temple of the Druids, but, according to some, was instrumental in initiating in 1717 the first Order of Druids on Primrose Hill, London. Some scholars, however, have found no evidence for this, and recognize instead the earliest revived Druidic order as being the Ancient Order of Druids founded in 1781 by Henry Hurle who organized it on the lines of Freemasonry. By 1839, however, conflicts between members led to the formation of a breakaway movement named the United Order of Druids, lodges for which were also established in the United States and Australia. The United Order of Druids still flourishes today as an international charitable organization.
The more mystical Ancient Order of Druids also continued through the 19th century and into the 20th, claiming among its many members Winston Churchill (1874-1965), who was initiated into the Albion Lodge at Oxford.
Exactly when the Ancient Order of Druids began their annual summer soltice celebrations at Stonehenge is unclear. Meanwhile, though, the monument drew a variety of other visitors and was popular among royalty and public alike. In the photograph on the left, Prince Leopold (4th from the right), the youngest son of Queen Victoria, enjoys a picnic with friends, while the photograph on the right records a village outing in the late 19th century.
By 1900 visitors were causing a lot of damage to the monument (two stones fell in this year) so its owner, Sir Edward Antrobus fenced in the site and began charging an entry fee. Not surprisingly, this greatly annoyed the Druids who refused to pay and were forcibly ejected by the police. A High Court case in 1905 upheld Antrobus's right to charge admission. A photograph from 1905 shows that despite the entry fee the ceremonies that year were nonetheless well attended.
In 1915, Stonehenge was sold and in 1918 the new owner presented it to the nation. By this time the number of Druidic sects had multiplied to five with each one vying to perform 'sacred rites' at the monument. A photograph from 1923 shows one of these sects performing the summer solstice celebration of that year.
By 1949 only two of these sects survived, and by 1955 only one, the British Circle of the Universal Bond, which claimed to be not only the true descendants of Henry Hurle's original Ancient Order of Druids but also of William Stukeley's Order of Druids purportedly founded in 1717. In 1963, an internal dispute produced the breakaway Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The Bards celebrated their rites at Tower Hill. The Bond, however, continued to welcome the midsummer dawn at Stonehenge.
From the beginning, it would appear, the Druidic ceremonies at Stonehenge drew crowds of spectators and the occasion early acquired a celebratory, festival-like character. A mass induction of novices into the Ancient Order in August, 1905 (the novices can be seen marching in procession between ranks of Druids in the photograph of that occasion), included a grand lunch at which, according to local newspaper reports, a large quantity of drink was consumed.
A photograph from 1966 shows the Druids almost lost among the crowds of people a number of whom watch the ceremonies perched on top of the stones. In 1975, the new 'New Age'-oriented, alternative, neo-pagan Secular Order of Druids was initiated and the annual Stonehenge festival began to attract huge crowds. After 65 years or so of being managed by departments of the government, in 1984 Stonehenge was placed under the control of English Heritage, a quasi-independent agency established by Parliament with responsibility for looking after ancient sites in England.
Glacial rebound is still occuring in Scandinavia. If the Scots moved to their present location from Scythia at or about the time of the founding of Rome and the Exodus, that would imply the glaciers were already clearing out of Scotland. But they could have still been there when the Druids built Seahenge and Stonehenge, and the land could still have been descending at the time.
In the seventeenth century, well before the development of archaeological dating methods and accurate historical research, the antiquarian John Aubrey surmised that Stonehenge and other megalithic structures were constructed by the Druids. While this idea (and a whole collection of related fanciful notions) has become deeply ingrained in the uneducated minds of popular culture from the seventeenth century to the present age, it is a matter of certain knowledge that the Druids had nothing whatsoever to do with the construction of the stone rings. The Celtic society in which the Druid priesthood flourished came into existence in Britain only after 300 BC, more than 1500 years after the last stone rings were constructed. Furthermore, no evidence suggests that the Druids, upon finding the stone rings situated across the countryside, ever used them for ritual purposes; they are known to have conducted their ritual activities in sacred forest groves. Thus any Druidic connection with the stone rings is purely conjectural. Other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century visitors to the stone rings suggested that these monuments were constructed by the Romans, but this idea is even more lacking in historical possibility than the Druid theory because the Romans did not set foot on the British Isles until the final years of the first century BC, nearly 2000 years after the construction of the stone rings.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prehistorians attributed Stonehenge and other stone rings to Egyptian and Mycenean travelers who were thought to have infused Europe with Bronze Age culture. With the development of Carbon-14 dating techniques, the infusion-diffusion conception of British Neolithic history was abandoned and the megalithic monuments of Britain (and Europe also) were shown to predate those of the eastern Mediterranean, Egyptian, Mycenean, and Greek cultures.
While the Carbon-14 method provided approximate dates for the stone rings, it was of no use in explaining their function. The archaeological community generally assumed that function to be concerned with the ritual activities and territorial markings of various Neolithic chiefdoms. Research by scholars outside the discipline of archaeology suggested an alternative use. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Oxford University engineer Alexander Thom and the astronomer Gerald Hawkins pioneered the new field of archaeoastronomy - the study of the astronomies of ancient civilizations. Conducting precise surveys at various stone rings and other megalithic structures, Thom and Hawkins discovered many significant astronomical alignments among the stones. This evidence suggested that the stone rings were used as astronomical observatories. Moreover, the archaeoastronomers revealed the extraordinary mathematical sophistication and engineering abilities that the native British developed before either the Egyptian or Mesopotamian cultures. Two thousand years prior to Euclid's elucidation of the Pythagorean triangle theorems and at least 3000 years before the sixth century AD sage Arya Bhata had "discovered" the concept and value of Pi, the British megalithic builders were incorporating these mathematical understandings into their stone rings.
While the findings and interpretations of Thom and Hawkins were fascinating, even revolutionary, more recent studies by Aubrey Burl and Benjamin Ray have tempered some of the earlier claims. Writing in 1987, Ray states: Hawkins (in 1964) asserted the existence of twenty-four solar and lunar alignments at Stonehenge, and he proposed the theory that the monument could have been used as a calculator to predict eclipses....However, it is now recognized that Hawkins was clearly wrong about Stonehenge's possible use as a calculating machine to predict eclipses. And it is also agreed that he overestimated the number of solar and lunar alignments involved....The 'discovery' of known alignments in megalithic sites has give the impression of remarkable astronomical knowledge on the part of late Neolithic builders, whereas in most cases the precision involved derives fundamentally from the investigator who knows the relevant alignments in advance and 'finds' them in the site.
While Ray admits to various alignments at Stonehenge and other stone rings, he seeks to counter the recent overly emphatic interpretation of the stone rings as astronomical observatories and to focus attention on their other "magico-religious" uses.
Stonehenge, the most visited and well known of the British stone rings, is a composite structure built during three distinct periods. In Period I (radiocarbon-dated to 3100 BC), Stonehenge was a circular ditch with an internal bank. The circle, 320 feet in diameter, had a single entrance, 56 mysterious holes around its perimeter (with remains in them of human cremations), and a wooden sanctuary in the middle. The circle was aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon. Period II (2150 BC) saw the replacement of the wooden sanctuary with two circles of "bluestones" (dolerite stone with a bluish tint), the widening of the entrance, the construction of an entrance avenue marked by parallel ditches aligned to the midsummer sunrise, and the erection, outside the circle, of the thirty-five ton "Heel Stone". The eighty bluestones, some weighing as much as four tons, were transported from the Prescelly Mountains in Wales, 240 miles away. During Period III (2075 BC), the bluestones were taken down and the enormous "sarsen" stones - which still stand today - were erected. These stones, averaging eighteen feet in height and weighing twenty-five tons, were transported from near the Avebury stone rings twenty miles to the north. Sometime between 1500 and 1100 BC, approximately sixty of the bluestones were reset in a circle immediately inside the sarsen circle, and another nineteen were placed in a horseshoe pattern, also inside the circle. It has been estimated that the three phases of the construction required more than thirty million hours of labor. It is unlikely that Stonehenge was functioning much after 1100 BC.
The Druids built neither. Both structures pre-date the Druids.
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