A Neolithic earthwork in Newbold-on-Stour, in Warwickshire County has surprised historians with the site being initially assigned to the construction of a modern residential neighborhood. Fortunately, timely archaeological assessment has revealed the remnants of a 4,000-year old henge monument in the area. Aided by a preliminary geophysical survey, researchers at the Archaeology Warwickshire began their excavation of the site, and their ongoing project has unveiled the remains of a relatively straightforward structure accompanied by five human burials. The Neolithic architectural specimen in itself (touted as Newbold Henge) comprises a segmented circular ditch accompanied by an embankment built from the dug-out soil.
Now when comes to this particular parcel of prehistory in Britain, the island does actually boast its fair share of henge monuments across the landmass. The renowned Stonehenge is one obvious example, arranged from giant standing stones. On the other hand, there are also inconspicuous specimens of such Neolithic complexes; few of which possibly even outmatched the scale of the Stonehenge. One example would pertain to the Marden Henge, which we described (in one of our previous articles) as the following –
When it comes to the conspicuousness of the Marden Henge, the site doesn’t really hold a candle to the imposing visual nature of its ‘brethren’ – the Stonehenge. In essence, one would not be too impressed even while standing in the middle of the location. But beyond time-fueled dilapidation, the Marden Henge boasted of giant circular earthworks that once stood around 10 ft high, and these man-made berms encircled nearly 40 acres of land. To put things into perspective, this massive scope of the Neolithic monument is a whopping ten-times bigger than that of Stonehenge. Interestingly, the site itself lies just a few miles south of Stonehenge, and is also estimated to be dated from around the same time – which is 4,500 years ago (when the ‘second phase’ of Stonehenge construction began).
The definite timeline being focused here mostly harks back to the transitory period between the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC. However, while historians are certain about the scale and physical scope of many of these henge arrangements, they are still perplexed by the mysterious purposes of these monuments. In short, there are various hypotheses in regard to the functional aspect of the henge structures, with conjectures ranging from astronomy, burial complexes to ritualistic activities.
In any case, reverting to the recent discovery of Newbold Henge, archaeologists have estimated that this prehistoric earthwork dates from circa 2000 BC, thus corresponding to the Late Neolithic period in Britain. Now this dating could be adjusted later, with the comprehensive analysis of the aforementioned human burials (whose remains were found to be in a relatively well-preserved state). According to the research team’s announcement –
The people had been buried carefully as none were placed on top of another and the three middle burials were facing west out from the henge, while the two outer ones were facing east, into the henge. This apparently deliberate arrangement suggests that the people being buried were a group of some kind, possibly family members and that the people burying them knew where the others were buried.
The researchers also mentioned –
Fragments of antler were found in the ditch which may have been deliberately placed there. If other artefacts were present they had not survived. Soil samples taken from around the burials will be inspected microscopically for charred plant remains, pollen and other environmental indicators such as ancient snail shells to attempt to build up a picture of the local environment at the time of the burials.
And lastly, and most interestingly, the scope of prehistoric henge-based architecture in Warwickshire doesn’t end with the Neolithic earthwork of Newbold Henge. According to the archaeologists working on the site, they are also looking forth to analyse four similar ‘hengiform’ monuments in the nearby town of Bidford-on-Avon that have burials of over 11 people.
Source / Images Credit: Heritage and Culture Warwickshire