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The secrets of Seahenge

Written by Georgia Dawson on

Old Hunstanton, Norfolk

Seahenge (aka Holme I) was a 4000-year-old Bronze Age timber circle. The fascinating structure was discovered in 1998 on the beautiful Holme beach on the north Norfolk coast. 4000 years ago, Holme beach was a salt marsh rather than a sandy beach. It was named Seahenge by the media due to its similar appearance to the famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Seahenge is a very large tree stump that was buried upside down. Placed around this tree stump were 55 timber posts which had been cut from smaller oaks in the area. It is believed the structure was built for ritual purposes and to pay respects the dead. Seahenge was protected by peat beds and was revealed due to the eroding coastline.

The oldest marks from metal axes ever found in Britain were found in the Seahenge timbers. The marks of at least 36 axes were discovered and this revealed that axes were being used for complex woodwork in a century of the introduction of bronze smelting. Due to so many axes being used, it is suggested Seahenge was a communal effort.

Seahenge was very controversially removed from the beach when English Heritage agreed to fund the Norfolk Archaeological Unit to carry out the removal. Many were worried about where the remains would end up if removed from the beach and did not consider the damage the sea could do to the old timbers. Druids protested the removal due to religious beliefs. Others felt that it would be good to bring tourists to Norfolk, however the Norfolk Wildlife Trust opposed to this. Because Seahenge was located on the edge of the Holme Dunes National Reserve, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust didn’t want large numbers of visitors to cause disturbance to the area.

After excavation, the timbers were cleaned to prevent any further decay. Seahenge was then preserved and can be seen in the Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn. You can view the timbers as they were discovered and learn about how this ancient wooden structure survived. There is also an audio guide with information about Seahenge.

However, at the same time as Seahenge being discovered, a second timber complex named Holme II was found. The second circle had two wooden logs laid flat in the centre. In 2014, researches revealed Holme II dated back to 2049BC, the same year as Seahenge. When Holme II was initially discovered, it was surrounded by a wooden oval of posts with smaller branches woven between them. Outside laid an ark of split oak timbers, and then a fence of closely set split oak timbers. Within 4 years, the branches had been washed away and the storms of 2003 and 2004 washed the logs away too.

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SALT Journal