4,000 year-old ‘woodhenge’ that could have been ancient sauna discovered in Yorkshire

Circular monument 'exceptionally rare', says archaeologist 

Harriet Agerholm
Friday 05 January 2018 18:03
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Aerial view of excavations at Little Catwick Quarry which revealed a Neolithic henge
Aerial view of excavations at Little Catwick Quarry which revealed a Neolithic henge

Archaeologists in Yorkshire have unearthed 4,000-year-old “woodhenge” - a wooden version of Stonehenge - that could have been used as a sauna.

The circular monument beneath a quarry near the seaside town of Hornsea, was built in either the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age period.

Aerial photographs of crop patterns seen in farmland, alerted the archaeologists to the site which they spent three months excavating.

They discovered wooden posts, encircled by a ditch, with two entrances, a finding lead archaeologist John Tibbles called “exceptionally rare”.

Burnt stones were found in a pit in the centre of the circle and it is thought possible that at some point the monument could have been used as a sauna.

People may have heated up stones in a fire outside, carried them into the structure and poured water on the stones, creating steam.

Archaeologist John Tibbles (front left) with John Bird Managing Director of Yarrows Aggregates at Little Catwick Quarry at Leven near Beverley with other archaeologists at work

‘I’d like to totally dismiss it – but they have had them in Finland for 2,000 years and there is Marden Henge’, said Mr Tibbles told The Yorkshire Post.

However, he also suggested that the site could have been used for ritual cremations.​

“In this case it was ritual, it was a meeting place, where all the little groups could come together,” he said.

He said the woodhenge could be connected to another site a mile away called Sandsfield, where a cemetery was discovered with a ring ditch containing 37 urns.

This was also dated to the late Neolithic early Bronze Age.

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