Woodhenge

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This article concerns Woodhenge in England. For the Woodhenge in North America, see Cahokia.

Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located to the North of Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, and it is closer to Amesbury than is Stonehenge.

Before seeing Woodhenge, visitors to the area sometimes anticipate that it might partly resemble Stonehenge. But there is actually little of the original structure easily apparent. Indeed, the site was not identified until 1922, after an aerial archaeology survey undertaken by Alexander Keiller and OGS Crawford.

Maud Cunnington excavated the site between 1926 and 1929.

Pottery from the excavation was identified as being consistent with the Grooved ware style of the middle Neolithic although later Beaker sherds were also found.

The site was understood by Cunnington to consist of a central burial, surrounded first by six concentric rings of postholes, then by a single ditch and finally an outer bank, around 85m wide. The burial was of a child which Cunnington interpreted as a dedicatory sacrifice although it was destroyed in The Blitz and re-examination has not been possible. Cunnington also found a skeleton of a teenager in one of the ditch sections she dug.

Most of the 168 post holes held wooden posts, though there is evidence of a pair of standing stones having been placed between the second and third post hole rings. The deepest holes measured up to 2m and the height of the posts they held has been estimated at up to 7.5m above the ground. This sort of timber would have weighed around 5 tonnes and prompted similar logistical problems as the erection of the bluestones at Stonehenge.

Further comparisons with Stonehenge were quickly noticed by Cunnington; both have entrances oriented approximately on the midsummer sunrise and the diameters of the timber circles at Woodhenge and the stone circles at Stonehenge are similar making the reasons for the name more understandable.

The positions of the postholes are currently marked with modern concrete posts which are either a simple and informative method of displaying the site or a travesty of visitor interpretation and visual amenity.

There are various theories about possible timber structures that might have stood on the site, and about how the axes, etc, of the rings might have aligned with positions of the Sun on the horizon. But opportunities remain for further work in this respect.de:Woodhenge nl:Woodhenge

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