Stonehenge Hedge

9 Feb 2010

The Guardian February 4th ... Stonehenge is revealing more secrets. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the Great Stonehenge Hedge. Apparently, around 2000BC (a date that may be revised after further investigation) the henge was surrounded by two circular hedges planted on low concentric banks. They are being interpreted by some archaeological commentators as screens to shield secret ceremonies carried out by an elite of priests - but that might just be another conspiracy theory. The story appears in February's British Archaeology magazine (on sale in newsagents) but Mike Pitts takes a more sober perspective and although he is constricted by the Early Bronze Age date assigned to the hedge (the first half of the second millennium BC) he considers the options may be open for an even earlier hedge - or something similar. Pitts suggests the hedge could have been used as a shelter from the elements rather than a screen, people standing between them and peering over the front hedge (which may have been low enough). Archaeologists therefore have a problem in not just dating the original planting - how long it thrived, what was there before the hedge, and how high the hedges might have been. Might it also have fulfilled a role as a place of perambulation.

The survey also found evidence of a shallow mound among the stones - inside the circle. It has been flattened but there are 18th century water colours that do actually show a mound. Until now these paintings have been interpreted as fanciful notions - how often is that phrase heard. It raises another enigma that requires further investigation - was the mound incorporated into Stonehenge as a natural feature or as a man-made monument. What might the mound have signified - if there is no burial beneath it. Did it play a role similar to contemporary mounds in Old Kingdom temple complexes?