Seahenge move defeats protesters

FINALLY, AFTER 4,000 years in the ground and almost two months of wrangling over it, the central oak stump of the Seahenge Bronze Age memorial was excavated from a Norfolk beach yesterday.

As the diesel engine of the 20-tonne digger brought in for the task throbbed, the upturned root was eased first one way,then another before eventually giving way to modern technology. Then it hung, like a massive, freshly pulled molar, beneath the digger's bucket as protesters continued to scream defiance.

The immediate rush was to see of anything had been buried beneath it to consecrate the site. Even as the timber was still being guided away from the edge of the excavation pit, archaeologists were diving into its hole with trowels and plastic bags to collect samples. Nothing obvious was found - instead the experts were baffled by how it had been placed there in the first place.

Dr Francis Pryor, director of archaeology at the Flag Fen Bronze Age site near Peterborough where all the wood from the circle is being removed for analysis and preservation, said there were no signs of a hole having been originally dug for it.

"This means somehow they forced this solid trunk into the ground, and that's rather extraordinary," he said. "It's a problem that has got to be addressed, and in its way is a bigger problem than how the stone of Stonehenge got there."

The final drama of this extraction came even as the diggers chains took the strain and a lone woman protester rushed at the pit screaming: "Leave it, leave it!"

She wound up on the ground after she tussled with the project manager before two police officers ran over to handcuff and restrain her. The woman continued to shout as her face was forced into the mud, while other objectors joined in the racket. "Stop hurting her. Hang your heads in shame. May God have mercy on your souls," shouted one man.

Dr Bill Boismeier, the project manager from Norfolk County Council's archaeology unit, threw his safety helmet to the ground, the frustration of so many weeks of uncertainty finally breaking through.

Work at the site has been halted repeatedly by demonstrators ranging from Druids to environmental protesters.

The issue has been the subject of a series of legal challenges since news of its discovery was first reported in The Independent in January.

At one point earlier yesterday it looked as though the whole operation was going to be called off again.

Mervyn Lambert, a prominent local objector who runs a large plant-hire firm, halted proceedings on Thursday by calling in the Health and Safety Executive.

Yesterday he made another last-minute effort to keep the wood where it was by raising similar technical questions about the digger's capability. After further delays and nervous mobile phone consultations, the official go-ahead was finally given at 3.30pm.

But it was not until an hour later, when the tide had already turned, that the digger's bucket was eventually swung into position over the timber, which was swathed in foam rubber to protect it from the lifting harnesses.

"Break. Go on, break," muttered Mr Lambert as it initially refused to budge. "The people who put it in there don't want them to do it."

He was not the only one who wondered if it would hold up to the punishment. Archaeologists had previously believed the solid one-and-a-half tonne timber could have been hollow and feared that it might disintegrate during the operation.

"My god, the tension," said Dr Pryor, afterwards. "But in the end, I am delighted, because the thing is now safe."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before