More than 20 years ago, archaeologists spotted a strange ring-shaped structure in the east of England using aerial photographs. It is located on top of a hill in the Yorkshire Heaths. Over the past four years, scientists from the University of Hull (Yorkshire, UK) under the direction of Peter Halkon (Peter Halkon) and James Lyall (James Lyall) have been excavating it.
The structure probably dates from the Late Bronze Age (1000-700 BC) and is a well fortified settlement, what scholars call a fort. The fort had two rings of defense and could only be accessed through a pair of narrow passages: in other words, it was a decently fortified place, well adapted for defense. In the center was the house of some influential man and his large family. Archaeologists have made quite a few interesting finds during the excavations, but this year they discovered something very special. And not in the fort itself.
Not far from it, they have unearthed something that they do not yet know how to call, either a sanctuary or a tomb. It is a square-shaped building, surrounded by a rather deep moat. Its central part was hidden from the eyes of an outsider by a palisade fence. In the center rested the remains of a child, the sex of which could not be determined: the bones had been badly damaged not only by time, but also by human economic activity (the land on the heaths had been plowed for a long time).
But most of all archaeologists were interested in the animal bones found there. In one corner they found bones of forelegs, then three cow skulls, then another skull and antlers of a deer. In other places the skulls lay in pairs – about 40 in all. Dr. Halcon said the bones were stacked too neatly and orderly to be “just discarded trash.”
In addition, cow bones and deer antlers were placed around the fence around the perimeter of the square — and after the fence had been demolished. That is, at some point, the palisade that surrounded this place was removed, and the freed hollow was filled with animal bones and antlers.
Scientists note that the remains of cattle, as well as sheep and pigs, were found in the house in the center of the fort. But in the sanctuary (or tomb) the inhabitants of the fort placed only the bones and antlers of cows and deer. The latter were wild animals still in England at the time, which people hunted. It is assumed that the front legs and heads were simply indigestible parts of animals that people used for sacrifice.
Archaeologists have made isolated similar finds elsewhere in the Yorkshire Wastes, but not in such numbers. Dr. Halcon believes that the cattle heads probably had some symbolic purpose. He said: “Cattle were important to them (the people of that time), and they may have measured wealth by the number of cattle.”
Of course, there was an assumption that the child’s bones were also the result of some kind of ritual. But we must admit that it is not yet supported by anything. The Late Bronze Age in Britain is a period that is not characterized by human sacrifice. It is also a time of rapid development, not only in metallurgy (mass production of bronze axes and swords) but also in ceramics and trade: around 1000 BC the British established relations with traders from the continent (the Phoenicians).
At the end of the Bronze Age (towards the middle of the first millennium BC) they had the wheel, intensive clearing of woods began, large settlements grew up in the lowlands. Some of these were well fortified, like the fort found on the Yorkshire Moors. The appearance of such fortifications is explained by the fact that around 800-700 BC Celtic tribes began to move into the territory of Britain.