6000-year-old ‘halls of the dead’ discovered in the UK
Archaeologists have made a sensational find in Herefordshire, England, where they uncovered the remains of two large 6000-year-old halls buried within a prehistoric burial mound. They would have been used to hold the remains of the dead and it is the first time that such a finding has been made in the UK.
The buildings were likely to have been long structures with aisles, framed by upright posts, and with internal partitions, and would have been used by entire communities. They may have been of similar length to the Neolithic long barrows beneath which they were found – 70 metres and 30 metres long. The smaller barrow contains a mortuary chamber, with huge sockets which would have held upright tree trunks at each end. The massive posts bracketed a linear ‘trough’ lined with planks, which would have held the remains of the dead.
Julian Thomas, Professor of Archaeology from The University of Manchester said: “This find is of huge significance to our understanding of prehistoric life- so we’re absolutely delighted…. These early Neolithic halls are already extremely rare, but to find them within a long barrow is the discovery of a lifetime.”
According to the archaeologists, the halls were deliberately burnt down after they were constructed and their remains incorporated into the two burial mounds. “Just think of how the burning of the hall could have been seen for miles around, in the large expanse of what is now the border country between England and Wales,” said Thomas.
In another UK first, some of the burnt wood discovered at the site shows the character of the building’s structure above ground level and much detail has been preserved in the larger barrow. Most importantly, the core of each mound is composed of intensely burnt clay, representing the daub from the walls of the buildings.
The discovery reveals that the people who built the structures sought to memorialize the idea of their community, which was represented by the dwelling, and makes a significant contribution to the national picture of the UK’s Neolithic heritage. According to Dr Keith Ray, Herefordshire Council’s County Archaeologist, the finding is “unique and unprecedented”.