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Brian Ayers, Norfolk county archaeologist
The new ring is probably the remains of a Bronze Age burial mound
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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 15:36 GMT
No sequel to Seahenge
Posts PA
Winter storms have exposed the new ring to the world
Archaeologists are examining a mysterious circle of wood which has emerged from under the shifting sands on the coast of Norfolk in the UK.

Graphic BBC
The structure was discovered just 100 metres from the site where the famous Bronze Age monument known as Seahenge was uncovered more than two years ago.

Researchers are aware of several features on the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea which may hail from the same period of history as the henge but none, they believe, is as significant as the now excavated oak ring. As well as the new circle, there is a single, unexplained stump sited close to a 19th Century shipwreck.

The new circle was probably the rotting timber supports of a simple burial mound or barrow, said Norfolk county archaeologist Brian Ayers. He said it might be Bronze Age but although "exciting" was not exceptional.

Graphic BBC
"There are 40,000 such mounds in the country," he said. "The unusual thing here is that normally one would get a Bronze Age barrow consisting of a great heap of earth and, occasionally, within it a circle of post holes where posts have been rotted away. Here, if it is a barrow, we've lost the earth but we've retained the posts."

 The BBC's Mike Liggins reports on the emergence of a new wooden circle

Brian Ayers urged people not to flock to the beach in the way they had to see Seahenge because of the detrimental impact such an invasion might have on local wildlife. The recently uncovered timbers can only be seen at low tide, the time when wading birds come on to the beach to feed.

His request was echoed by Gary Hibberd from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. "If you care about the beaches in Norfolk and the wildlife that live on them, please stay away for the time being," he said.

The new circle is slightly bigger than Seahenge and instead of a central upturned stump has two flattened logs. The central logs were first spotted last August by archaeologist John Lorimer. The surrounding ring appeared as winter storms shifted the sands.

Extensive study

"As soon as I saw the central posts - how they are - I knew we had another circle," he said. "It's nearly the same [as Seahenge], only bigger."

Posts PA
The new circle features two central posts
The Seahenge timbers were removed, against some local people's wishes, and taken to the nearby Bronze Age research centre at Flag Fen. The structure, which was probably used for death rituals, was extensively studied under carefully controlled preservation conditions.

Scientists, who combined a number of techniques including complex mathematics, were able to show that the wood for the henge came from trees felled in 2049 and 2050 BC.

Now, with the investigations complete, Seahenge is likely to reburied. However, the same process of excavation and study will not be applied to the new circle. It will be left in place.

"We do need to put this into context," said Brian Ayers. "When you have an exceptional feature like the original timber circle, you have to take exceptional measures. But the norm is to study things and monitor them."

The original Seahenge is likely to go back under ground
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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Seahenge may be buried
01 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Seahenge dated to spring 2050 BC
14 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Fire destroys Bronze Age records
08 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Seahenge gives up its secrets
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