The site is so vast that it contains a greater number of pits in a concentrated area than any other location in England and Wales, surpassing even the renowned Stonehenge.
In a remarkable archaeological discovery at a site in Linmere, Bedfordshire, archaeologists have found up to 25 monumental, intricately aligned ancient pits dating from the Mesolithic period, 12,000 to 6,000 years ago. This era, providing scant evidence of our hunter-gatherer progenitors, is on the cusp of revealing extraordinary new insights thanks to these newly found pits.
25 Intricately-Aligned Ancient Pits
Displaying alignments and clustering around erstwhile stream channels, these pits imply spiritual significance, thereby enhancing their archaeological importance. The sheer volume of pits in a single location is unparalleled in England and Wales, surpassing even Stonehenge. Radiocarbon dating established their existence between 7,700 to 8,500 years ago.
A Rare Glimpse into the Mesolithic Era
The site’s significant age, under investigation by researchers from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola), is important, given the dearth of substantial Mesolithic sites in the UK. Predominantly, the meagre evidence from this epoch comprises only flint tools and occasional butchered animal remains.
Prof. Joshua Pollard from Southampton University, known for his work in the Stonehenge and Avebury landscapes, deems this discovery immensely exciting. Despite the existence of other large, mysterious pits carved out by hunter-gatherers across Britain, the Linmere pits’ sheer volume and expansive coverage make them unique.
The Herculean Task of Digging the Pits
Crafting these vast pits, with dimensions reaching up to 5 meters wide and 1.85 meters deep, presents a monumental task. The circular pits, with steep sides widening into a larger base, display an intriguing structure.
Two separate development projects facilitated the exploration of the site, with Albion Archaeology and Mola excavating different sections. The pits housed animal bones, an invaluable source of evidence. Remains of aurochs, a wild cattle species, indicate human consumption.
A Serendipitous Discovery
Yvonne Wolframm-Murray, a project officer at Mola, reveals the discovery was wholly unexpected, with the Mesolithic pits’ identity confirmed only after radiocarbon dating results. The quantity of pits is unmatched by only a few known sites, making it an exhilarating find.
Despite speculations about the pits being hunting grounds or food storage spaces, their unusual shape and size suggest otherwise. The intentional alignment of pits in straight lines extending up to 500 meters and their proximity to former stream channels intrigue archaeologists, hinting at a spiritual or special significance.
Piecing Together Ancient Mysteries
As research continues, archaeologists are exploring whether the pits’ positioning correlates with significant celestial events like solstices, possibly marking important landscape elements. Further investigations into the pits and surrounding environment may provide crucial insights into the transformational Mesolithic period.
As researchers delve deeper, they hope to uncover whether the pits were contemporaneously dug and utilized and gain more knowledge about the neighboring flora. Evidence of oak, hazel, and pine has already been discovered. Studying the pollen from the Mesolithic period could potentially paint a more vivid picture of the environmental conditions of that time.
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