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Archaeologists compare Neolithic Kent site to Stonehenge, find Bronze Age funerary monument

A Neolithic ditch which became a huge funerary monument when it was enlarged with an outer ring during the Bronze Age has been found on housing development grounds in Kent.

Archaeologists suspect a “sacred way” could have led to a henge 6,000 years ago at Iwade Meadows, to the west of the Kent industrial town of Sittingbourne.

Positioned on a north-west slope, the 30-metre diameter structure is one of several prehistoric monuments on a north-west slope above the Ridham fleet stream running through the centre of the site.

“Its purpose is not known,” says Dr Paul Wilkinson, of excavators SWAT Archaeology.

“But it may be that the monument was reused as an enclosure for stock management at this time or could formally have been used as a ‘sacred way’ leading to the Neolithic ‘henge’.

“The monuments are in a location that would have formerly had extensive views to the Swale Estuary and the Island of Sheppey beyond.

“The archaeological evidence suggests that the outer ditch may have originated in the Neolithic and been later transformed in the Bronze Age into a funerary monument with the addition of the inner ring.”

Archaeologists now hope to determine the exact date, phasing and character of the monuments.

“The outer ring has an entrance facing north-east suggesting that it may have originated as a henge-type monument – a ceremonial gathering place of which Stonehenge is our most well known example,” says Dr Wilkinson.

“The inner ring appears to be later and is an unbroken circuit. This may be associated with a Bronze Age burial, as a barrow, though no burials have yet been found.

“A second smaller monument lies close to the larger rings and may be a secondary barrow dating to the Bronze Age.

“While the monuments may have fallen out of use for their primary function by the middle Bronze Age they seem to have still been significant landscape features, as a track from the north-east is seen to have been extended to the causeway entrance of the outer ring.

“The importance of the location in the Neolithic period is reinforced by the rare findings of a series of pits close to the monuments that may indicate the area was being used before the construction of the monument or represents activity associated with it.”
moss Posted by moss
13th August 2014ce

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