Seahenge, at Holme-next-the-Sea, near Old Hunstanton in the English county of Norfolk, is a prime example of two worlds seeming to meet despite the landscape in which it was originally built shifting over time. Seahenge is named after the same convention which named Stonehenge, despite not being a henge as they are known to most of the archaeological world.
The liminal aspects of Seahenge are numerous. The salt marsh in itself would have been a strange half-way zone between land and sea, with the oak barrier to the inside acting as another. Even the act of inverting the trunk at its centre is a way of traversing the normal order of things by placing the underground branches in the air. Liminal zones in archaeology is used to describe anything causing a sensory experience seperate to the normal order of things, as if it is between worlds. Liminality is often given as an explanation to why cave paintings are in caves, tying in with the popular shamanistic explanation of their purpose; that the cave paintings are images of visions from shamans in trances, painted on the walls as if they represent a membrane to
The site was discovered because the behaviour of the tide on Holme Dunes, which is gradually wearing away the peat layers to reveal the landscapes laid down many thousands of years ago. In this instance the wooden posts and stump had been preserved in the peat and were revealed at low tides.
Since the entire structure had been in an anaerobic waterlogged state for several thousand years, the logs had survived with little damage. In the early Bronze Age, the site was probably a saltmarsh environment, between the sea and the forest before the ocean encroached to form the modern coastline. Tidal action had scoured away overlying sediment which had built up in the intervening centuries revealing the timbers for the first time since prehistory.
Seahenge was apparently built in the 21st century BCE, during the early Bronze Age in Britain, most likely for ritual purposes.
The site consisted of an outer ring comprising fifty-five small split oak trunks forming a roughly circular enclosure around 7 by 6 metres (23 by 20 ft). Rather than being placed in individual holes, the timbers had been arranged around a circular construction trench. Their split sides faced inwards and their bark faced outwards (with one exception where the opposite is the case).
One of the trunks on the south western side had a narrow Y fork in it, permitting access to the central area. Another post had been placed outside this entrance, which would have prevented anyone from seeing inside. The timbers were set in ground to a depth of 1-metre (3 ft 3 in) from the contemporary surface although how far they originally extended upwards is not known. In the centre of the ring was a large inverted oak stump. Holme I was excavated in October 1998, and now resides at the Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn and opened to the public in April 2008.
In 1999, images went round the world of druids and other protesters chanting, weeping and trying to block the diggers from dragging the ancient timbers of Seahenge out of the silt and removing them from the beach.”
One hundred metres east, another older ring has been found, consisting of two concentric timber circles surrounding a hurdle lined pit containing two oak logs. Known as Holme II, it dates to the centuries before Holme I (c. 2400-2030 BCE) although the two sites may have been in use together. Although also threatened with destruction by the sea, this site has been left in situ and exposed to the tidal actions of the sea. Archaeologists have suggested that this decision by English Heritage relates to the controversy over digging Holme I.