Woodhenge is a rather misleading term, as it doesn't describe a single place, but a certain type of structure. A henge is a large circular earthen platform, surrounded by a ditch and then a mound, the most famous being Stonehenge in the UK. Stone henges are a relatively common feature of the prehistoric landscape, cropping up all over Wiltshire and into Northumbria and the Orkney Islands.
The stone henges though, only really date from the late Neolithic, and many show signs of some sort of wooden structures being in place before the final stone phases which we can still see today, (despite the best efforts of clergy and townsfolk in the Middle Ages). The common term for these rather hazy posthole remnants is a wood henge, that is a henge site with a wooden structure on top of it. By the same token, nearly all henges today are stone henges, as they are a henge earthwork with a stone structure in place on top.
The stone joining techniques on sites such as Stonehenge are far more like those used in woodworking then those seen in stone masonry. This suggests an ongoing use of tried and tested techniques that were used on the previous wooden structures. The only way such structures are truly discovered today is when they rise mysteriously out of the sea after storms, like the recent discovery of seahenge and its associated monuments.
Uk Wood henges
This is a quick summary of the various wood henge sites that are definitely known about in the UK. The use of magnetometer survey and fluxgate gradiometers though, means that they are becoming easier and easier to discover, if grubbing about in the dirt can ever be described as easy. I shall try to keep the list updated as new wood henges come to light, and if you know of any other major ones other than the ones below, please msg me!.
- Wood Henge
Yet another site in Wiltshire, just a few miles from Stonehenge. This is commonly known as the Woodhenge, though there are several others. The wood henge predates Stonehenge being built around 2300BC, (though dating is uncertain), and consists of six concentric oval rings of postholes. These align with the sunrise on Midsummer morning by their long axis and although the wooden posts have long since rotted away, discreet (!) concrete posts have been placed in their stead to try and give visitors a feel of how the site used to look. Also, the skull of a three year old child was found during excavations, placed near the centre of the monument. The skull had a split through it which led many people to leap to the conclusion of ritual sacrifice, rather tawdry evidence to go on though...
Woodhenge can be found off the A345 North of Amesbury.
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- Stanton Drew
The Wood henge on this site was recently discovered in 1997. Stanton Drew is the second largest henge in Britain, second only to Avebury. On top of the henge platform are nine concentric rings of postholes which are thought to have held posts and supported a vast timber structure. This structure may have been a temple, or a market place or even just a focal point for travellers, but is a very important discovery. Although nothing really remains of the original structure, archaeologists believe that it would have been equal in importance to Stonehenge, and just as impressive.
See http://exn.ca/Stories/1997/11/11/02.asp for more info and a picture of what the temple may have looked like.
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