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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Seahenge burial decision delayed
Seahenge: One of the great Bronze Age discoveries
A decision on whether to rebury the ancient wooden circle known as Seahenge has been postponed to allow scientists to carry out further research on the timbers.

Digital imaging will provide a permanent record for future scientific research and public understanding

English Heritage
Commissioners at English Heritage announced the delay after hearing from researchers that certain marks on the wood could yield vital information if studied with new digital imaging techniques.

The Bronze Age structure appeared out of the drifting sands on the beach at Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk two-and-a-half years ago and was immediately hailed as one of the great archaeological finds of recent decades.

It was removed from the beach, amid much controversy, and taken to the Flag Fen archaeological centre, near Peterborough, for study. Researchers suggested the timbers be reburied close to the original site because no private or public body had come forward with funds to maintain a permanent exhibition site.

Future understanding

The new studies will record the axe marks on the surface area of the timbers in a three dimensional format.

Graphic BBC
"With reburial or conservation, these delicate marks would inevitably disappear," English Heritage, the UK Government's advisory body on historic sites, said in a statement. "Digital imaging will provide a permanent record for future scientific research and public understanding."

The timbers will now be placed in new immersion tanks at Flag Fen to ensure their continued preservation.

The initial results of the latest research will be announced shortly and a report on the timber circle is due to be published in the autumn. An exhibition of the findings is also being planned.

Public imagination

English Heritage said it would continue to consult various groups on Seahenge's long-term future "with a view to finding a suitable long-term solution for the remains of this highly evocative monument that has clearly so captured the public imagination".

Flag Fen BBC
The timbers are studied at Flag Fen
Seahenge was uncovered by winter storms in November 1998. It consists of a central tree stump surrounded by 55 smaller posts, which 4,000 years ago would have formed an enclosure.

No records exist from the early Bronze Age, so archaeologists can only guess at the site's function, but it could have been the focus of death rituals.

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

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No sequel to Seahenge
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