'Seahenge' Bronze Age Wooden Circle Near Hunstanton, Norfolk OS Map Ref TF69304420 (now removed)
OS Maps - Landranger 132 (North West Norfolk), Explorer 250 (Norfolk Coast West)
'Seahenge' June 1999. The
circle has been surrounded by sandbags to try to slow the process of
erosion, the posts now becoming visible due to the falling water level.
There are 5 timbers visible in front of the trunk with around 8 timbers
to the left and 8 to the right. The eroding peat is the dark material
just in front of the outgoing tide.
from May 1999 showing the scale of the circle.
A remarkable recent discovery,
this is a small wooden circle that has been uncovered by shifting sands
on a beach near Hunstanton in Norfolk. This somewhat misleadingly named
'Stonehenge of the Sea' was first reported in the national newspapers
early in 1999, although it is claimed that locals have known of its
existence for some ten years or more. It consists of an oval ring of
between 48 and 55 oak posts, each one cut in half and then placed next
to its neighbour to a depth of over a metre with the cut side facing
inwards, to form a continuous 7.5 metre diameter wall around a
large oak trunk buried upside down in the centre. This central structure
is believed to have been some kind of altar, but why it has its roots
pointing skyward is not clear. Some have suggested that it was for the
ritual laying out of corpses, perhaps to be washed away by the sea,
while others have speculated that the whole site would have originally
been built on swampy ground someway inland. What is known however is
that subsequent environmental changes lead to the circle being covered
in peat and sand, and it is the erosion of the peat that has brought
the whole structure to prominence once more. These peat beds have been
dated to the Bronze
Age, and this along with the nearby discovery of an bronze
axe head of the same period, and distinctive tool marks in the wood,
date the site to between about 2000 - 1200BC*. When visiting the site
in June 1999, work had already begun in removing the posts to allow
their preservation, as since being exposed to the elements and the rising
and falling tide, the wood has now become so brittle that is starting
to disintegrate. It is estimated that this task should be finished by
July 1999, although it is not yet known where or when the preserved
circle and altar will finally be re-erected.
*Update July 2003
The central oak trunk which weighs about 2.5 tones and the 55 split
timbers have been dated by dendrochronology (tree rings) to 2049BC (ie
the year they were felled). The circle was built on a backswamp - dry
land with a high water table in the marginal area between the sea and
fertile soil inland with the continuos wall of planks placed edge to
edge with a narrow entrance formed by a 'Y' shaped timber allowing access
to, or viewing of, the central trunk from the southwest.
Since 1999 all the timbers have been undergoing preservation at Flag
Fen in Cambridgeshire while awaiting a decision on their future.
The timbers are now at the Mary Rose preservation centre in Portsmouth and it
is planned that they will move to a newly constructed museum in King's Lynn sometime
The King's Lynn museum opened on 1st April 2008 featuring a new display
of half of the timbers..
Update April 2010
The preserved central stump has now finally been reunited with the timbers
of the circle at King's Lynn museum. Museum
The central trunk and roots in a preservation tank at Flag Fen. The
constant supply of water is desalinating (removing the salt from) the
Detail of the trunk. In
the centre is the cutaway bracket used to tow the oak into position.
To the left are the marks left by narrow bladed copper axes used to
debark and dress the tree.