Flag Fen

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Anya Hobbs
Flag Fen
Flag Fen, situated near Peterborough, is believed to be a late Bronze Age ritual site. It consists of
thousands of rows, originally up to 80,000, of upright oak posts making up a kilometre long
causeway linked to a platform or island. It was excavated by Francis Prior and his team who dated the
samples back to 1000 BC, and consider the site to have been used for around 400 years, from
around 1350 BC onwards.
There are many ritual activities associated with Flag Fen, one of these is the propitiation of personal
items, usually of some value, that were deposited in the water normally on the south side of the
posts. In total over 300 items were found along the alignment of timbers this included a couple of
daggers, four swords, part of a bronze shield and several spear heads. A lot of the items found
appear to have been purposely broken, some people suggest this was done in order to get rid of
surplus wealth. Other people believe that the belongings were offerings made to a God, perhaps a
God that could be found under the ground or water, similar to the Greek God Hades, however this is
a difficult theory to prove as it is very hard to know what people believed in such a long time ago,
this is according to Hawkes Ladder of Inference This rite of intensification has also been found to
have happened in other parts of northern Europe and is often associated with watery places such as
Hjortspring hoard. A number of animal bones have been found at Flag Fen, this could suggest a
celebration taking place as a part of a ritual feast, maybe to celebrate a rite of passage such as birth
or death.
Mike Parker Pearson believes Stonehenge represents the dead as it is made from Stone and
Durrington Walls represents the living because it is made from the organic material wood and that
because of the close proximity of these two places that they are linked as the land of the dead,
Stonehenge, and the land of the living, Durrington Walls. If Mike Parker Pearson was right then this
theory could be applied to Flag Fen, which would mean that Flag Fen represented the living.
Another ritual aspect of Flag Fen is the presence of a liminal, or boundary area, between the earth
and the water. The causeway going out across the water has been interpreted by some as a crossing
into another world perhaps a world of the gods, therefore meaning people could get closer to their
Another ritual you could say was related to Flag Fen was the sacrifice of time and labour made by
those who built it. Because of the amount of wooden posts used it would have taken a lot of time to
gather that amount of wood and shape it. It would have also taken a long time to position all the
posts in perfect alignment.
To conclude, there are several ritual aspects to Flag Fen, many of which can be found in Renfrew and
Bahn's indicators of religion and ritual, for example liminality and propitiation.
01 November 2009


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