A STONE Age ‘cult’ henge site and human remains – which could belong to some of south Warwickshire’s earliest residents – have been discovered close to Stratford.
Archaeologists have found the 4,000 year-old remains at a new housing development in Newbold-on-Stour, on fields at Mansell Farm. Experts say it is an ‘important discovery’.
The findings include a Neolithic henge, which – unlike its famous counterpart Stonehenge – was a simple design consisting of a ditch dug into segments and a bank made up of material thrown up from the ditch.
The buried remains of five people were also found, and archaeologists say they have ‘unusually for the area’ survived as complete skeletons.
The people had been buried carefully as none of the bodies had been placed on top of another. The three middle burials were facing west, out from the henge, while the two outer ones were facing east, into the henge.
The apparently deliberate arrangement suggests the people being buried were a group of some kind – possibly family members – and the people burying them knew where the others were buried.
The skeletons have now been recovered from the site and will now undergo testing to see if details about who they were can be discovered.
Archaeology Warwickshire Project Officer Nigel Page, who excavated the site said:
“Exactly what the henge was used for is not certain, but it is likely to be have been used for rituals, some of which may have been associated with cosmological events over 4000 years ago.
“The henge survived as a shallow, segmented circular ditch with an internal diameter of around 9m. The five people had been buried within a segment of it.
“Originally it would have been surrounded by a bank which would probably have been on the outside of the ditch. Unlike other types of site the ditch and bank were not for defence, but were intended to close off the interior of the henge and make it an arena for whatever festivals or rituals were taking place within.
“The skeletons have been recovered from the site and will undergo scientific analysis to try to answer the many questions that their presence on the site has raised. For example, it is hoped that the sex and age of the people can be established and it may also be possible to determine if there was a family connection between them.
“The rare survival of the skeletons will provide an important opportunity to gain a unique insight into the lives of the people who not only knew the henge and its landscape, but who were probably some of the region’s earliest residents”.
Archaeology Warwickshire Business Manager Stuart Palmer said: “This exciting discovery is of national importance as it provides tangible evidence for cult or religious belief in late Stone Age Warwickshire.
“Amazingly it is the second such find by the team. In 2015 a group of four henges was excavated in Bidford although the burials at this site were all cremated. Prior to this there were no known henges in Warwickshire leading some archaeologists to believe that a different kind of cult was prevalent in the region.”