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Archaeology & History

Archaeologists may have solved mystery of 4,000-year-old 'Seahenge'

By T.K. Randall
June 19, 2024 · Comment icon 6 comments
Seahenge posts.
A museum exhibit of Seahenge posts. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 -JvL- @ Flickr
The true purpose of the enigmatic timber circle situated along the British coastline had puzzled researchers for years.
Dating back 4,000 years, Seahenge - which can be found in the unusual, though appropriately named village of Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, is essentially a circle of timber posts with an uprooted, upturned tree stump in the center.

At the time of its construction the site was a salt marsh situated away from the sea, while sand dunes, mud flats and eventually a layer of peat all helped to protect it from the elements.

The exact purpose for which Seahenge was originally constructed had long presented something of a mystery to archaeologists and although it is generally believed that the structure was ritualistic in nature, its precise significance was still unclear.

Now, though, it has been proposed that the true purpose of Seahenge was to help expedite the return of warmer weather during a particularly cold and bitter climatic period.
"Dating of Seahenge timbers showed they were felled in spring, and it was considered most probable that these timbers were aligned with sunrise on the summer solstice," said the University of Aberdeen's David Nance.

"We know that the period in which they were constructed 4,000 years ago was a prolonged period of decreased atmospheric temperatures and severe winters and late springs placing these early coastal societies under stress."

The layout of Seahenge may have in fact mimicked the layout of the "pen" of local folklore from which a young cuckoo would emerge to keep singing, thus enabling the extension of summer.

"Summer solstice was the date when according to folklore the cuckoo, symbolising fertility, traditionally stopped singing, returned to the Otherworld and the summer went with it," said Dr Nance.

Source: Independent | Comments (6)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Ell 29 days ago
Maybe it was a fish trap?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jon the frog 28 days ago
Or to break waves so small boat would be protected from storms.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Ell 28 days ago
Then what about the upside down tree stump?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Piney 28 days ago
I don't think it would be too efficient as a fish weir. My people used them all the time and ours were shaped completely different  It was probably a temple.. The stump was probably a altar. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ell 28 days ago
It may have provided shade? I do not know how effective that would be in a fish trap, though. In any case it is a weird structure.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Piney 28 days ago
The Shenks Ferry Culture, a tribe that went extinct before White settlement which resided right above mine had a similar structure they probably used as a seasonal clock. It lined up with all the equinox stars like the Pawnee star map. They could have even been Caddo. Like the Pawnee, because we scattered them everywhere for the sin of human sacrifice and cannibalism like we did with the Siouian Cahokia refugees. 

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