April 13, 2013

Huge palisade enclosure in Wales

The small village of Walton (Powys, Wales) was, it seems, long ago a ceremonial center for the ancient peoples of Britain between 3800 and 2300 BCE. At the very least it had a huge palisaded enclosure that could have accommodated five buildings of the size of the London Olympic Stadium within its circa 1200 posts, each said to be 4 m. high. 

Digital reconstruction of the ceremonial site

Besides the structure itself, which has been investigated for decades, pottery, flint tools and food remains have been found. Apparently the site hosted some kind of regular festival of unknown characteristics. 

Source: Wales Online.


  1. This site predates Stonehenge and Avebury, although it overlaps with the earlier dates of Stonehenge and construction of the ditch, before the standing stones. (3100 bce according to Wikipedia) It isn't too far away from Salisbury, about 200km.

    While no one should assume the sites were for the same purpose, it's remarkable to me that the sites would have been in use at the same time. It is evidence of a fairly large and interconnected population in Britain at 3000bc.

    1. Check this 'Leherensuge' entry, please: it seems that there is no strong correlation between megalithic monuments and overall population based in non-monumental findings.

      The apogee of population (judged on non-monumental findings) seems to be c. 3300-3500 BCE, with a clear decline and stabilization by the end of the 4th millennium. Later, in the late 3rd millenium, we see a clear increase in monumental building but no growth in normal sites.

      How to explain that? I don't have a good explanation but a tentative one could be one of increase of "religious fervor" or, in more materialist terms, accumulation of resources in the hands of the priestly class (proto-druids surely), who used it for their ceremonial "show off" purposes, while the bulk of society remained roughly the same.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that article, it is very informative. Setting the monuments aside as unrelated, though, a person still has to be impressed with the size of the site in Wales and the number of people who must have gathered there. I would have thought Powys and central Wales to be an out-of-the-way place.

    1. Walton is right at the border with England and also the economy and society of that time was probably not quite as today in their geography. Look for instance at this interactive map of Megalithic Britain and Ireland: all the East (south of Yorkshire) is empty: whoever lived there were very peripheral to the Megalithic phenomenon, including trade routes, political and religious structures, etc. Stonehenge and Avebury are in Wiltshire, which today is the middle of nowhere also. Cornwall, Devon and rather remote parts of Ireland and Scotland are also heavily dotted.

      A possible explanation is that sometimes shrines and holy places are not strictly correlated with mundane economic or political power - think Lourdes or Santiago, even Rome before the Italian unification... Jerusalem, Mecca... Mount Athos... - they may be "holy" for reasons not directly related to economy nor politics, for example the setting Sun, a popular saint's burial place or hermitage, a famous oracle or a mythical place where the gods are said to inhabit or manifest more intensely than elsewhere. I imagine that the society of that era had more relation with Medieval society (in which towns were relatively unimportant and religious aspects were instead highly influential) than with the semi-urban classical world, never mind ours. However there should be some sort of connection with the real economy and seats of power - but it may not be straightforward.

      In order to understand social geography at more basic levels we would need to map not just monuments but pottery styles and other similar "commoner" cultural traits. In order to see political and economical organization we'd need to map towns and villages especially. There seems to be little interest in Britain towards these other socio-cultural factors or at least I am ignorant of most of them.


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