It is both surprising and stunning. As you come around the edge of Rudston church, there is the monolith, the tallest in England at 7.6 metres, with reputedly the same length buried under the ground.. It is so unexpected that the stranger can only stop and admire. Of course it predates the church by many thousands of years, and it’s presence says something very clearly. This is a holy site, and has been for millennia. It is one of many henges, standing stones, circles and tumulus that still litter the landscape, that speak of a past now lost to us. Their silent witness tells of people who cared enough to put huge effort into constructing and erecting monoliths such as this one. But why? We can only speculate. Speculate not only about the purpose, though that is grand enough. But who organised the fetching of the stone that forms it? Who fed the labourers, who had the knowledge and skill to erect a structure that has lasted thousands of years? They clearly had the leadership, resources and committment not out of place in a modern company. Reflect on the fact that the monolith weights some 26 tons, and was transported a distance of 10 miles to its present site, and ask yourself the question, how far have we really progressed today?
An atlas listing and detailing 4,147 hillforts was released to the public for free on the 22nd June. The atlas gives an exhaustive list of all the known hillforts in Britain, and adds considerably to the previous list of 1,224 hillforts listed in the Wikipedia entry for June 2017. The press release states:
Mostly built during the Iron Age, the oldest hillforts date to around 1,000BC and the most recent to around 700AD. Hillforts were central to more than 1,500 years of ancient living: with numerous functions – some of which are yet to be fully uncovered – hillforts served as communal gathering spaces. The research also shows that, fascinatingly, not all hillforts are on hills; nor are they all forts.
And that is part of the mystery. There are some hillforts, for example, Maiden Castle in Dorset, the biggest hillfort in Europe, that are truly hillforts, not only atop significantly high hills, but with impressive defences, and in the case of Maiden Castle, with clear evidence of attack(s) by the Romans.
Yet there are others that look at first glance as “defended enclosures” to use the archeological term, but are indefensible. They have a bank and ditch, but arranged in such a way that they offer no impediment to attackers. Thornborough Henges is one of the most important examples, and is viewed as being part of a ritual landscape, whatever that means!