It was probably a small wooden ‘henge’, in scale and form not unlike the famous ‘Seahenge’ from Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk – except that there the post-ring had formed a solid fence. The evidence for what followed in the Bronze Age, however, was much clearer.
The ring-ditch was not a complete circle: some 15m in diameter, it was interrupted by two entrance-ways, one to the north-west, the other to the south-east, each of which was delineated by two external flanking posts. Within the enclosure were four small pits of shallow ovoid form containing charcoal, coarse hand-made pottery, and small quantities of cremated human bone. It is just possible that the pits had originally held timber posts: their ovoid shape may have been the result of a ramp being cut to facilitate the erection of the posts.
The pits were enclosed by a wide ring of large, predominantly blue, river cobbles. They in turn were surrounded by a circle formed of 18 silver-birch posts, represented by circular deposits of charcoal cut into the natural boulder clay.
Bone, pot, and ritual pits The bases of several post-settings produced evidence for the deliberate charring of the posts – perhaps to make them more durable. Several contained charcoal and cremated bone, with occasional fragments of pottery, apparently in sufficient quantity to argue against this being simply an accidental sweeping into the posthole fill of random material lying nearby: it looked, in other words, like deliberate, ‘structured’ deposition. What did it mean?
Opposite top Bronze Age pottery tempered with large grits – perhaps remains from funerary feasting at the site. Opposite middle A polished antler tine with a hole bored through it – was it a horse fitting, the toggle from a garment, or an ornament worn around the neck? Opposite bottom A selection of worked flint tools from the Poulton site ranging in date from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age.
‘… the ring-ditch, the silver-birch circle, the blue cobbles, the four internal pits, and the material recovered from ditch, post-holes and pits all point towards some form of funerary rite …’
Right Plan of the newly discovered site at Poulton. Geophysics and sample excavation have shown the site to be a palimpsest of different periods. As well as the medieval chapel previously excavated (bottom) and the fully excavated Bronze Age ring-ditch (top), there is a second partially excavated ring-ditch immediately south of the first, and a possible third one immediately south-east (7). Other features shown on the plan include a large Bronze Age enclosure ditch (5), a Roman ditch (1), and, across virtually the whole of the site, medieval ridge and furrow (2, 3, 4).