A stunning Neolithic henge and ritual site estimated to date back over 4,000 years ago has been discovered by diggers working on a cable route around Woodbridge in Suffolk, along with the remains of an extinct and prehistoric cow known as an aurochs.
Near a riverbank, archaeologists spied enormous timbers that looked so fresh they still showed tool marks on them. Assuming these to be Victorian or possibly from medieval times, they kept digging. However, after uncovering more than 30 meters of timbers, archaeologists knew they had discovered something of enormous importance, as The Guardian reports.
Carbon-14 tests showed these timbers to be 4,300 years old, and with more timbers found below the first ones, these are assumed to be even more ancient.
Huge horns and a skull from an aurochs were found among the timber, and archaeologists believe that these may have either been used to create a magnificent headdress for a Neolithic ritual or could also have been arranged on top of a pole for the same ritualistic purpose.
Interestingly, the skull of the extinct cow was actually quite old when it was carried down to the riverbank and immersed in water, with archaeologists suggesting that the animal remains are 2,000 years older than the timber track itself.
According to the BBC, researchers have called the discovery of this massive Neolithic complex “phenomenal,” explaining that the site is clearly one that is of “international significance.”
The henge itself was found to be formed of a ditch with a large burial mound placed squarely in its center, with its walkway “perfectly preserved,” and part of the timber “as good as the day it was placed in the earth,” according to project manager Vinny Monahan.
“You can see tool marks, and the differences in handedness of people, whether they were left-handed or right-handed. Nothing compares with the intensity and complexity of this site and how it was utilized for thousands of years. It says to us this location is a special place, it was venerated for thousands of years and people came here and focused their attention on this part of Suffolk.”
Archaeologists that have visited this Neolithic site have admitted they were dumbfounded by the discovery, noting that no historical record of its past use now remains, even with Roman, Saxon, and medieval-era residents once living in the area.
While Monahan has said that it may be too early to be speaking of “rituals,” there is really no better word to describe the activities of people visiting the site who “weren’t living here – they made this place deliberately and they were coming here because it was important to them.”
Richard Newman, who was in charge of the archaeological dig at the Suffolk site, noted how profoundly amazing it was to discover timber that looked to be so fresh and was in actuality quite ancient.
“It is exceptionally rare to find preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery. Some of the wood is so well preserved we can clearly see markings made by an apprentice, before a more experienced tradesman has taken over to complete the job. Initially some of the wooden posts looked like they were maybe 100 years old, and it is incredible to think that they are over 4,000 years old.”
The timber and other artifacts that have been discovered at this Neolithic henge site at Suffolk are now undergoing further analysis and it is thought that part of the timber walkway will be placed in a local museum in the future.