A Monumental Landscape

Explore the Monumental Landscape

From the fifth millenium BC onwards our picture of human habitation changes. Flint tools are more common and pottery vessels make their first appearance. The vast tracts of woodland that covered the site were gradually cleared and controlled. A new architecture appeared in the landscape, with monuments constructed at important locations between the period 3,600 and 1,600 BC. These include the Stanwell Cursus, a linear construction of double ditches with a central bank that stretched for almost four kilometres. This massive monument sealed the ancient site of the Mesolithic pits. The Stanwell Cursus may have been a processional route for special ceremonies and may have also served as a barrier that divided the river floodplain from the upper gravel terraces. Whatever its function, the monument brought together the inhabitants of the Neolithic landscape, both as a building project and as a venue for communal activity in a place of ancient significance.

Smaller monuments, some linear, others designed as small, less visible enclosed spaces, were constructed during the Neolithic. These also were used for communal ceremonies, probably associated with solar events, such as the mid summer and mid winter solstices. The ceremonies would have brought family groups together as communities to negotiate ownership of land and the resources of a landscape which, by now was being tamed and divided. But these ceremonies were conducted by a small elite within the secret, sacred spaces of small enclosures, hidden from general view by high internal banks. Later in the Neolithic, the locations of these by now decaying monuments were used as venues for activities which left less obvious traces in the landscape. In this later period pits were dug and filled with pottery, flints and food during ceremonies that sealed agreements between the inhabitants and marked the importance of the place.

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