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Marden Henge update

28 July 2010

The Guardian says archaeologists peeled back a thin layer of turf covering the henge which has miraculously escaped being ploughed up over the last 4,500 years and were astounded to find the undisturbed original surface just as it had been left when the people had tidied up after the ceremonial or community meal described a couple of days ago. The rubbish had been swept up into a pile that was left as a dump in one spot (pottery, pig bones, ash and the stones used to cook the food) and thw whole surface was then covered with a layer of clay and stamped flat – and that is what they found (presumably around the building).

Marden is situated midway between Avebury and Stonehenge and this is causing some bizarre theories – suggesting it was a place where the stones used at the famous sites were dragged to be worked and shaped and then moved on to their sites. In the case of Stonehenge that is downriver as Marden abuts onto to a bend in the Avon. It consists of an oval shaped outer earth bank in configuration with the river that comprises some 14 hectares. That is bigger than Avebury – which encloses a village. What appears to have taken the fancy of the archaeologists excavating on the henge is how much of it is left for future investigation – ditches, banks, a lost barrow (or earthen hill), a massive surrounding moat and a second smaller henge. The Neolithic buildings were found on the bank which suggests previous investigations of henges that have sought buildings in the middle areas were looking in the wrong place. The barrow or earthen hill had collapsed and a farmer sold it as top soil while the moat has been filled in. However, excavation at one of the entrances and at the small henge look promising. A broad avenue leading towards the river has been found but no permanent occupation of the buildings has been found. They appear to be temporary structures and the image emerging is of people gathering for seasonal ceremonies and feasting with perhaps a work camp. Archaeologists have tended to think diomestic, recreation, and ritual were separate but a rethink is required as it is now possible there was a mixture of activities – going on at the same time. Henges were not prehistoric equivalents of churches, which is one idea prevalent, especially when looking at Stonehenge in isolation, churches generally being built of stone. All over the site stone working tools and flakes of sarsen have been found and this implies stone was being worked and shaped at Marden – but where did the stones go?

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