Neolithic 'halls of the dead' found in Herefordshire

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Media captionProfessor Julian Thomas said the find was of "huge significance to our understanding of prehistoric life"

Two 6,000-year-old "halls of the dead" found in Herefordshire have been called "the discovery of a lifetime" by archaeologists.

Teams from the University of Manchester and Herefordshire Council made the find on Dorstone Hill, near Peterchurch.

The team also found possible links between Neolithic communities in Herefordshire and Yorkshire.

Professor Julian Thomas said the "very rare" find was of "huge significance to our understanding of prehistoric life".

The remains of the halls were found within prehistoric burial mounds.

Yorkshire link

Archaeologists believe they were deliberately burnt down after they were constructed and their remains incorporated into two burial mounds.

They think the timber buildings may have been "halls of the dead" similar to others from the Neolithic period found in Europe.

Image caption Stone artefacts from Yorkshire may have been placed at the site as part of a ceremony

Bodies may have been placed in the halls before being moved to nearby chambered tombs.

Prof Thomas said: "These early Neolithic halls are already extremely rare, but to find them within a long barrow is the discovery of a lifetime."

The halls are thought to be have been built between 4000 and 3600 BC.

A flint axe and a finely-flaked flint knife found on the site have "close affinities" with artefacts dating from around 2600 BC found in eastern Yorkshire, the team believe.

Dr Keith Ray, Herefordshire Council's county archaeologist, said the axe and knife may not have been traded, but placed there as part of a ceremony or an ancestral pilgrimage.

He added: "These subsequent finds show that 1,000 years after the hall burial mounds were made, the site is still important to later generations living 200 miles away - a vast distance in Neolithic terms."

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