Tonight on BBC 4, a brand new series of Digging for Britain begins. First up, it’s the team of archaeologists from University of Reading who have one enormous mystery on their hands, literally.
Marden Henge is the biggest prehistoric monument yet discovered in the UK. Bigger than the Avebury stone circle, and ten times the size of Stonehenge, its banks (which would once have stood over 10 feet high) enclose an area of over 15 hectares, and contain both an inner and outer henge.
Despite its enormity, and its location, Marden Henge is still relatively unexplored; unlike Stonehenge, most of its remains are hidden underground, and archaeologists are only really just beginning to turn their attention to it.
Last summer, Amanda Clarke and Jim Leary from the University of Reading kicked off a three-year research project attempting to unearth Marden Henge. If what they’ve already found is anything to go by, the dig looks set to transform our understanding of the Neolithic people who built these huge monuments along the River Avon.
So far, excavations inside the enclosure have unearthed a rare, and fantastically well-preserved Neolithic building, along with flint, pottery, a fire pit and what appear to be the remains of a very large feast. Just outside, the team also found the skeleton of a Bronze Age teenager who was buried wearing an amber necklace.
They also found the second piece of a remarkable flint arrowhead that was so delicately crafted the team believe it could only have been made for show. Watching them piece it back together for the first time on camera is a truly nervewracking experience!
Of course, Marden Henge is just one monument in a landscape populated by many, but that’s what makes it so fascinating. Despite its size, location and relatively unknown status, it’s still one of Britain’s biggest remaining archaeological mysteries.
Why was it built? What was it used for? How will the archaeological evidence stack up compared to Wiltshire’s other Neolithic monuments? And why was it so massive? For all the attention that Stonehenge gets, it might just turn out that Marden Henge is where things were really at during the Neolithic.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what the world was like for the people who built and worshipped in this fascinating landscape, we highly recommend you watch Digging for Britain tonight, because that’s where we’re heading in July and you can come with us!
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