While not as famous as its stone cousin Stonehenge, Seahenge, a prehistoric timber circle located in the village of Holme-next-the-Sea in the English county of Norfolk, is just as mysterious. Now, a second circle found nearby has been positively dated and is believed to have been built at the same time using trees cut in 2049 BCE.
Seahenge, also known as Holme I, was discovered in 1998 in a peat bed in Holme-next-the-Sea. It was dated to the Bronze Age and showed that metal tools were used earlier than originally believed. The ring is most likely a funeral memorial because it was found with an upturned stump which was probably where the body of the deceased was placed so it could decompose in a so-called sky burial. The discovery led to controversy and protests as the 55 posts and stump were removed from the site and put on display at the Lynn Museum.
The second circle, called Holme II, was discovered at the same time but was not removed. Because the wood is decaying, archeologists recenty used dendrochronology – counting the growth rings – to positively determine the trees were cut in the spring or summer of 2049BCE, the same year the Holme I timbers were cut.
What was the purpose of the timber circles? David Robertson, historic environment officer who ran the Holme II dating project, explains a possible reason for their construction and how they are linked.
As the timbers used in both timber circles were felled at the same time, the construction of the two monuments must have been directly linked. Seahenge is thought to have been a free-standing timber circle, possibly to mark the death of an individual, acting as a cenotaph symbolising death rather than a location for burial. If part of a burial mound, the second circle would have been the actual burial place.
A full report on the research is expected soon and no further excavation is planned. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust has asked visitors to avoid getting close to the area because Seahenge II is below the high water mark and not visible.
Visible or not, it’s truly an interesting and special place.