Large Neolithic ceremonial enclosure discovered

Archaeologists uncovered a large 5500 year old Neolithic ceremonial gathering place at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet, United Kingdom.

Overview of the site (by Wessex Archaeology)

The site consists of encircling bank and ditch segments with gap entrances. Archaeologists call this type of feature a causewayed enclosure. It is believed that the Riding Court causewayed enclosure may have been seasonally occupied, a place where communities gathered to undertake ceremonial feasting, exchange of goods, the marking of festivals and social obligations. Imported objects found in other enclosures suggest trade and exchange of exotic objects (stone axes and pottery), while evidence of feasting and human burials are known from other sites.

The monument appears to be an oval shape with a projected perimeter of 500 metres. Currently 265 metres of the enclosure’s arc – some 12 ditch segments –  have been traced with the remainder due to be uncovered in 2018. Among all discovered features one contains evidence of deliberate consumption and wasting of meat and the exposure of human remains including the placing of skulls in the base of ditches. Towards the base of the ditches, small concentrations of animal bone, pottery and worked flint have been found and probably relate to the activities that took place within the enclosure. The finds include finely worked flint arrowheads, knives and serrated blades, decorated pottery sherds and in one segment part of a human skull. According to John Powell, who is leading the work, there are signs that pots were deliberately smashed perhaps as festivities came to a close.
Excavations at the site (by Wessex Archaeology)

During the excavations archaeologists have also found remains of several periods of Prehistoric, Roman and later date activity. Traces that indicate people periodically lived, farmed, settled and gathered in the area from the end of the last Ice Age, a period of 12000 years. The researchers state that the enclosure at Datchet lies within the well populated Neolithic landscape of the Middle Thames Valley that includes cursus monuments, timber framed houses and middens. Around 80 similar monuments have been identified across Britain, and others are known on the Continent.

(after Wessex Archaeology)

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