A mysterious 4,000-year-old timber circle dubbed Seahenge is going on show at the British Museum.
The ancient monument, which was only uncovered 23 years ago when it re-emerged due to shifting sands on a remote Norfolk beach, is part of a landmark exhibition about Stonehenge and Bronze Age Britain.
It consists of 54 wooden posts, some as high as three metres, surrounding a huge oak whose roots were upturned to the heavens potentially to hold a body or some form of religious offering.
Archaeologists who uncovered the site in 1998 found the posts packed together in a 6.6 metre diameter circle with the sides covered in bark facing outwards and a narrow entrance positioned to catch the rays of the rising sun.
Dr Jennifer Wexler, project curator of The world of Stonehenge at the British Museum, said: “If Stonehenge is one of the world’s most remarkable surviving ancient stone circles, then Seahenge is the equivalent in timber. But as it was only rediscovered in 1998, it is still relatively unknown.
“We know about some aspects of the monument, including that it was constructed in the spring and summer of 2049 BC, from mighty oaks. But there’s much that still eludes us, including exactly what it was used for.
“Perhaps the central upturned trunk was used in funerary rituals to support a dead body. Perhaps entering the circular shrine brought worshippers closer to the otherworld. By displaying Seahenge in this exhibition, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to time travel back to the moment when circles of stone and timber were at the heart of people’s beliefs.”
When it was found the timber structure had started to erode from contact with the air and salt brine after years protected underground
It was painstakingly removed from the beach, with the tides only allowing archaeologists to work a few hours at a time.
Since then it has been in collection of a museum in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, and this will be the first time it has gone out on loan anywhere.
The show, which runs from February 17 to July 17, will include more than 430 objects from all over Europe including two gold hats, from Germany and France, decorated with solar motifs reflecting the importance of the sun in the religious beliefs of the time.
Other exhibits include treasures dug up in the landscape surrounding the ancient stone circle in Wiltshire including a horde found buried nearby with the body of what is believed to a local chieftain in a grave looking over the site.
The find, known as the Bush Barrow horde, includes a sheet of gold which was found laid across the dead man’s chest and is one of finest examples of Bronze Age craftsmanship ever found in Britain.
There will also be treasures on show from the grave of a man dubbed the Amesbury Archer whose grave included copper knives, gold ornaments and the arrowheads which gave him his name.
The man came from modern day Switzerland or Germany and the proximity of his grave to Stonehenge has led to speculation he was involved in building the stone circle.Internet Explorer Channel Network