Measuring Up The Mega And Mini-Henges Of Neolithic Britain

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Measuring Up The Mega And Mini-Henges Of Neolithic Britain

Measuring Up The Mega And Mini-Henges Of Neolithic Britain

The dictionary description of a ‘henge’ as “a circular area, often containing a circle of stones or sometimes wooden posts, dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages,” fails to depart that these circular or oval earthen enclosures dating from around 3000 BC to 2000 BC - the Neolithic or ‘new Stone Age and early Bronze Age - represent sacred spaces that served ancient British communities’ spiritual needs in the way modern churches, mosques and synagogues do today.

Essentially a ‘henge’ is a ditch that forms a sacred space with a defined center where order prevails, as opposed to the wild and unpredictable surrounding-outside world. Every henge is formed by a circular-shaped outer bank with an entry causeway crossing internal ditches, and many have multiple rings of this bank-and-ditch design. While countless thousands of these structures once peppered Neolithic Britain and Ireland, less than 100 survive today. According to Jim Leary in his 2016-paper Valley of the henges, contrary to most Neolithic sacred sites, which are often perched on the shoulders of hills, henge structures are mostly found on low-lying agricultural land beside rivers, such as the Maelmin Henge reconstruction in England’s Northumberland which features the so-called Milfield North Henge monument, located in a low-lying Neolithic agricultural zone.

The Maelmin Henge was reconstructed in 2000 using only the tools available to people 5,000 years ago. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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