What is a Henge?; Ötzi the Iceman; Shang City, China.

What is a Henge?

A Henge is a late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age roughly circular enclosure. They date to around the 3rd millenium BC.

Cairnpapple Hill ©Dr John Wells
Cairnpapple Hill
©Dr John Wells

Henges are surrounded by a ditch and sometimes a bank also. The sites were not defensive and they can be placed into three different classes

Class I – Site with a single entrance

Class II – Site with opposite entrances

Class III – Site with four entrances

Ring of Brodgar © Paddy Patterson
Ring of Brodgar
© Paddy Patterson

Internally pits, burials, postholes from previous structures and stone circles have been identified within henges. They are thought to have been part of ritual landscapes and some also had the addition of a curcus near to them. Pottery associated with them is identified as Grooved Ware, Impressed Ware and Beakers.

Avebury ©Blake Patterson
©Blake Patterson

The best known examples of henges in the UK are the Ring of Brodgar, Avebury, Knowlton and Thornborough Henges. The best known ritual landscapes that include henges are Stonehenge, Heart of Neolithic (Orkney) Stanton Drew, Arbor Low and Balforg.

Henges are great places to visit and very mysterious to!


  • Bradley. R. 2012. The Significance of Monuments: On the Shaping of Human Experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Daevill. T. 2003. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Avebury – ©By Blake Patterson from Alexandria, VA, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Cairnpapple Hill – © By Dr John Wells [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Archaeology Wow!! – Ötzi the Iceman 

Ötzi is the name given to the ice-mummified remains of a man found in 1991 by two German hikers in the Alps on the Austria-Italy border. They thought they had come across the remains of a recent hiker that must have got lost, but it soon became clear that this man was not from modern times – his remains date to between 3359-3105 BC.

Ötzi in situ  © 19 September 1991, 13:30, by Helmut Simon
Ötzi in situ
© 19 September 1991, 13:30, by Helmut Simon

The body was examined and when he was alive Ötzi would have weighed 50kg and stood 1.65m tall. It is estimated that he was around 45 years old when he died. DNA analysis has shown that he was of European origin and has eaten not long before he died.

Ötzi had a number of tattoos which were still visible on his skin. On his inner knee he had a small blue cross tattoo, and on his left calf, right ankle and either side of the spine he had two blue parallel lines measuring 2cm. It is not known if these had any cultural or symbolic meaning.

Ötzi the Iceman Reconstruction. © Thilo Parg [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Ötzi the Iceman Reconstruction.
© Thilo Parg [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

As  Ötzi was preserved in the ice, his clothes and possessions were also fairly well preserved. He had a deerskin coat, bearskin hat, calfskin shoes, a cloak made or reeds or grass and there was dried grass stuffed in his shoes to help keep his feet warm.

His equipment included an axe, a haft, leather binding, a yew bow, 14 arrows in a leather quiver, a flint knife, netting, flints, antler and bone pieces, and the remains of a number of plants that may have been used as medicine.

Ötzi was a truly remarkable find and has helped us to understand more about tools, possessions, clothing and the diet of people so far back in time. His remains and possessions can be seen at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, South Tyrol, Italy.


  • Beattie. A. 2007. The Alps: A Cultural History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Murray. T. 2007. Milestones in Archaeology: A Chronological Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
  • Oetzi the Iceman Reconstruction – ©Thilo Parg (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.



Archaeological Site Guide – Shang City, China

Shang City is the remains of a Shang Dynasty (17th – 11th centuries BC) city uncovered in Zhengzou Province in China. The capital city of the Shang Dynasty changed a number of times and so this site was a major find. It is dated to 1570 BC.

The length of the city walls was 6960 metres and the city itself covered 25 km square. The walls measured 20 meters thick at their base and 10 metres thick at the top and there were 11 gaps in them which could have been where the gates were located.

Ruins of Shang City © history.cultural-china.com
Ruins of Shang City
© history.cultural-china.com

The palace stood in the north-east part of the city and outside were located the workshops and cemetery. Archaeology has shown evidence for pottery making, copper smelting, and bone working, and two cellars containing large bronze vessels were uncovered and it is beleived these were for the people living in the palace.

Ruins of the City © 3dtourchina.com
Ruins of the City
© 3dtourchina.com

The archaeology of the site is

1950 – Discovered by Han Weizhou who reported it to the authorities.

1951 – Investigated by members of the Chinese Science academy.

1954 – Excavations at the site begun under the leadership of archaeologist An Jinkui.

1955 – The site was confirmed as belonging to the Shang Dynasty.

1971 – Excavations continued under the direction of archaeologist An Jinhuai.

1973 – Many ruins of the buildings were uncovered and the palace site was confirmed.

To find a site like this is every archaeologists dream – what an amazing discovery!!



  • Underhill. A. P. 2013. A Companion to Chinese Archaeology. Indiana: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Xue. F. 2010. Chinese City and Urbanism: Evolution and Development. Singapore: World Scientific.


Great Books to Read…….



Great Web Pages to Look At…….


Activity – Word Search 9 January 2015 docx

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