Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sarsen Stones

sarcen 006 (2)As a boy I lived in Cardigan, a small town in South Wales. From my house I looked up to the Preseli hills where the rock used to build Stonehenge came from, which is over 400km . One of the mysteries is how the huge rocks were carried from Wales in such ancient times. Did they go over land or sea?
Stonehenge was a site for pagan sacrifice and its beauty might mask a horrible past, if it was people who were sacrificed. We can only guess why the massive stone circles at Stonehenge were put there. Some believe Stonehenge was an enormous solar calendar and a temple to worship the sun. We cannot know.
One idea is that henges were places of gathering and trade. Rocks placed in high places marked ways for people to travel. Many of these high places were chosen later by Christians for church buildings. These church buildings were named for Michael, an angel named in the Bible. Many of the henges were destroyed to build the church buildings. There is some evidence that this is the case in Takeley which sits within a neolithic clearing with an easterly lane leading to it.
Stonehenge lies in a line of henges starting at St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. St Michael's mount is on the western tip of Britain and the site of a very ancient port, trading tin. Our ancient journey through Stonehenge, marked by church buildings, ends near Lowestoft. Lowestoft is the most easterly point in Britain and the site of another ancient trading port. Is this another clue as to why the henges were built? Could they have marked the way between trading centres?
The line of henges that Stonehenge is a part of, also passes through the Wandlebury Rings near Cambridge in the Gog Magog Hills. The Gog Magog Hills are named after pagan giant gods, not the peoples in the Bible.They were believed to be the pagan gods protecting London and they are carried as images each year in the Lord Mayor's show! Britain's pagan history can only be guessed at from giant rocks of Stonehenge but it is never far from the surface in the names and folklore of our country.
On the village green in Takeley, opposite the Four Ashes Pub, lies a large sandstone boulder with an ancient mysterious history and a more recent story. It is a type of rock known as a sarsen. Sarsens are large, tough sandstone rocks. It is about 1m by 1m, roughly square with a smooth top and its edges are rough.
The Takeley sarsen was found during the building of Stansted Airport in 1985. It was found buried in a pit on the site of a Bronze Age village (about 2000BC).The pit was to one side of the remains of the door of a very large community roundhouse.
For centuries sarsens have been used as way markers and as standing stones as in Stonehenge. Why would the villagers bury a rock in the middle of their village? We don't know. It needed a lot of effort to dig the pit and put the boulder in it! Was it put there for a practical reason or as part of a religious ceremony?
We might never know but, since 2003, the Takeley sarsen reminds the village of its ancient past.
Joshua, a pupil at The Christian School (Takeley) interviewed the local historian Trevor Allen who shared some interesting facts about the stone.
Trevor remembered that there were three digs between 1985 and 1993. In one of these the Iron Age village was found near the airport catering site. The sarsen stone was used in the Bronze Age and the Bronze Age people must have thought that it meant something religious Trevor thinks.
On the side of the sarsen stone are two holes which when the stone was found they thought were bored by men, but they have clay in them, so they could be there because of roots growing into the stone.
They did not just find a sarsen stone but they have found pottery and Trevor described the wonder of holding ancient pots held by people thousands of years ago.
When Trevor first saw the stone he described it as like finding a precious coin in the street but ten times more exciting. He wants people who see the stone to remember that people have been in Takeley for thousands of years.