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Neolithic 4200 - 2000 BC

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Curator's introduction
What constitutes a Henge

Possible Henge monuments of Thanet


The Avebury Henge Enclosure from the air
The great Henge Enclosure at Avebury, Wiltshire

Copyright J.Arthur Dixon Postcards, Published by John Hinde Ltd

Curator's introduction

Probably the best known of all of Britain's Prehistoric monument-types, these enigmatic and emotive places of likely ceremony and ritual excite the heart and the head in equal measure. The attraction of these monuments lies in a mixture of their antiquity and what we perceive to have been their function in Late Neolithic and Beaker Period/Early Bronze Age society.

Carved into the landscape, sometimes on a huge scale, our ancestors laboured long and hard to create a space that was set apart from their everyday world, though one that was no doubt
an integrated and fundamental part of life for many (if not all) in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods.
One of the causewayed entrances at Avebury, Wiltshire

One of the causewayed entrances at Avebury
The Avebury stones

The Avebury stones

These places were constructed to serve the needs of a human population who's actions within we can only largely guess at today. We might imagine them as a place for gatherings, for celebrations and commemorations (of births, marriages and deaths perhaps), for prayer or thanksgiving to the spirits of the Ancestors, Nature or the Gods, for festival and gift-exchange or trade.

The luckiest and largest have survived down to our time and stand as both monument and testament to our ancestors and our ancient culture. Whether we choose to experience these places in an imaginative, romantic or purely physical, analytical way, the word 'Henge' commands ones attention quite unlike that of any other monument-type in Britain.
The enormous ditch and outer bank at Avebury, Wiltshire

The enormous ditch and outer bank at Avebury

The ditch at Avebury, with Alan and June Hart kindly providing the scale

The ditch at Avebury

Facing into the enclosure, photographed from the top of the outer bank

Alan and June Hart kindly provide the scale

What constitutes a Henge?

The term was first applied to these monuments by Kendrick in 1932 (Harding 2003). In general a Henge comprises a circular or asymmetrical/oval ditch surrounded by an outer bank and usually either one or two opposing causewayed entrances (the largest can have four). Variations from the more common, 'Classic' type exist of course. Stonehenge (surely the most famous) features an inner bank rather than an outer one for example.

The size of the monuments can vary considerably. The external diameters of 'Classic Henges' can range from between 20-250 metres (Harding 2003). Smaller monuments from 5-14 metres have been called 'Mini-Henges'; while there are a couple of examples  of 'Henge Enclosures' (such as at Avebury and Durrington Walls) which can be from 320-537 metres in diameter (Harding 2003).
The modern concrete pillars mark the place of the ancient post-holes at Woodhenge, Wiltshire

Concrete pillars mark the place of the ancient post-holes at Woodhenge, Wiltshire
The Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

The Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire

Within the Henge one may find pits or post-holes which gives evidence that they once contained structures or circles of wood or stone. Sometimes Henges contain no archaeological features at all.

The presence of stone circles within British Henges which have managed to survive down to our time have helped to elevate the fame of these monuments into the wider public consciousness. The evidence for wooden or stone circles, or the total absence of other features, combined with the lack of evidence for everyday domestic activity and the often monumental nature of their construction has driven the ideas on the interpretation of these (often multi-period) monuments in the direction of the 'non-secular'; a place of ceremony and ritual.


Possible Henge monuments of Thanet

Click here if you would like to link to a page which explores the potential Henge monuments discovered on Thanet so far.



Harding J. 2003. Henge monuments of the British Isles. Tempus.6.

Kendrick 1932. 83-98. (in Harding 2003,6; precise reference uncertain at present).

The text is the responsibility of the author; the photographs are by the author unless otherwise stated.

Paul Hart

Version 1 - Posted 26.09.06
Version 2 - Posted 16.12.06

All content © Trust for Thanet Archaeology