Court bans oak circle protests

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The Independent Online
ARCHAEOLOGISTS SEEKING to remove a 4,000-year-old tree circle from a beach won a High Court injunction to stop protesters holding up their work.

English Heritage is moving the monument - known as Seahenge - which is half-buried a mile from the village of Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. The excavation by the Government's conservation body has been hindered for the past two weeks by locals, druids and environmentalists who believe the 54 split oak timbers and the upturned oak trunk they encircle should stay where they are. Archaeologists say the structure will be washed away by the sea if it is not moved.

After Mr Justice Holland granted the injunction in a private hearing yesterday, English Heritage said any occupation of the site would now be illegal.

The protesters' anger reached its peak when archaeologists used a chainsaw to take a sample from the central trunk. Earlier this week a Druid called Crow staged a sit-in at the centre of the circle. On Thursday English Heritage again decided not to carry out any work to avert a confrontation with protesters who had moved on to the site.

The team attempting to excavate the monument wants to move it to the Flag Fen archaeological centre, near Peterborough, in the hope of saving a valuable insight into the Bronze Age. Experts say peat beds which protected the timber circle have eroded and left the structure at the mercy of the elements. It is thought to have been an altar where the dead were helped on their way to an afterlife.

The site was discovered last year by a man walking on the beach. Philip Walker, an expert on ancient monuments, said it is "unparalleled in Britain and, as far as I know, anywhere else in the world".

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