Norfolk Archaeological Trust – Review by Natasha Hutcheson
Most of human history is, in fact, prehistoric. That is, before the Romans, our ancestors lived in societies that did not write things down. To find these ancestors we have to look across our landscapes, gather data, and use our imaginations.
Sky widens, and the chain tautens.
footfalls in the sandy soil and soggy fen,
footfalls through forests bedded
with cones and needles;
Norfolk has a rich prehistory, from burial mounds like the one at Fiddlers Hill, through to the circular enclosure at Bloodgate Hill in South Creake, both NAT sites. But, undoubtedly one of this county’s most enigmatic sites is at Holme-next-the-Sea where two prehistoric, circular monuments, known as Seahenge I and Seahenge II were discovered. Seahenge I, excavated in 1999, was constructed in the summer of 2049 BC – just over 4,000 years ago, during the early Bronze Age. The ring was marked out in wooden uprights made from 55 split oak trunks hewn into shape using bronze axes. At its centre was an upturned oak tree stump that had been carefully moved into place using honeysuckle ropes.
With honeysuckle ropes we snared the posts
and set them up in trenches side by side.
Past the hazels and alders
we hauled the huge oak-stump
with its horn roots to the bog.
What these monuments meant to their makers is lost in time, but their fascination holds, and still exercises the minds of many. Capturing and imagining their mystery is part of their joy.
Kevin Crossley-Holland – who lives near the Burnhams – and Andrew Rafferty give us a glimpse of Seahenge through the voice of a poet and the eye of a photographer. Together, in their recent work, Seahenge: A Journey, they present a new way to experience these monuments. The words and images takes us on a journey from the Chiltern Hills of Crossley-Holland’s youth, to Holme beach and its circles in the county of his adulthood. We travel along the Icknield Way and Peddars Way, as many have before us, and arrive at Holme, where we experience the building of the circle and laying of the dead through his words. Each step along the way is accompanied with one of Andrew Rafferty’s images, which are as enigmatic as the circles themselves – a blur of marram grass, woodland, light and water. Each page on this journey invites us to imagine, and to feel a past that continues to exist in the present, and as we travel with our guides, we discover a narrative of life, death, and eternity.
Let each silence
learn to bear a burden
weightless as eternity
This is a remarkable work and one that opens up the prehistoric past to the imagination. It is beautifully written and illustrated – a gentle read that explores new possibilities on our prehistoric past.
© NH and Norfolk Archaeological Trust