flint arrowhead

Southern England Gothic
  • You are driving down a narrow country lane with tall hedges on each side. There is a tractor ahead of you. Through the hedge you glimpse pale shapes moving. Perhaps they are lambs. The tractor is moving slowly, and its engine sounds like a growl. There is nowhere to turn around.
  • When you dig here, you find chalk. When you dig here, you find flint. You find sharp flint arrowheads. You find smooth, round flints shaped like skulls. You do not remember why you are digging. You are covered in chalk.
  • The houses in the new estate all look the same. The road through the estate is quiet. You do not hear any birds. You see movement in a window. There is no car in front of the house. You have not seen any cars on the road. You wonder if you should wave.
  • There is a hosepipe ban. It has not rained for weeks and you must not use the hosepipes. Your neighbour’s lawn is still green. Your grass is turning yellow. You cannot have a yellow lawn. You must do as your neighbour has done. You must know what he is feeding it.
  • Your mother told you not to play on the motorway bridge. You are transfixed by the cars racing beneath you. When you stand on the bridge the wind howls in your ears and grabs at your hair. It feels like you are falling. Your mother told you not to play on the motorway bridge, and you did not want to disobey. You cannot let go of the rail.
  • There is a sign welcoming you to the village. There is a shop on the corner and a small church. There is a sign welcoming you to the village. Next to the church the graveyard is wide and tangled with branches. There is a sign welcoming you to the village. There is a phone in an old red phone box and it begins to ring. There is a sign welcoming you to the village, and the town it is twinned with is written in an alphabet you cannot read.
  • You name the birds which are circling overhead. Starling. Crow. Red kite. Red kites are rare. There are many kites overhead. You are too far from the road. You walk faster.
  • Your train is delayed. The platform is an empty and the cafe is closed. Your train has been delayed by a signal failure. A recorded voice apologises to you. Your train has been delayed, and there will be a replacement bus service. You have heard terrible things about the replacement bus service. You do not know anyone who has been on the replacement bus service. When you step on board the bus, the driver smiles and apologises. You should have travelled by car. It is safer.
  • There are pigeons in the town centre. They follow you sometimes, always watching. You must not feed the pigeons. They follow you into the shops and watch your purchases with beady black eyes. The pigeons are better than the seagulls. You are so, so far from the sea.
  • You visit the old house. It’s National Trust. There is a cafe with scones and jam and a long, winding path through the woods. You hear children shrieking. There are places like this across the Nation. The jam is red and sticky. You hear children shrieking but everyone around you is grey-haired. There are tours of the house every hour. You do not Trust them.

Part 2.

5

The Ring of Brogdar is Neolithic henge and stone circle located in Orkney, Scotland. While the site has not yet been reliably dated, it’s commonly believed to have been erected sometime between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. In 2008 an excavation was undertaken to try and settle the dating issue, but the results are still only preliminary.

The ring consists of about 60 stones, only 27 of which are still standing. They are set within a ditch that’s about 3 meters deep and carved from solid sandstone bedrock. The stone circle is 104 meters in diameter, making it the third largest in the British Isles, and is the most truly circular stone circle from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

The first formal survey of the ring was performed in 1849 by Captain F. W. L. Thomas and crew. They were in the area drawing up admiralty charts when they decided to perform archaeological surveys. Since then, surveys and studies are routine, and the site is currently the target of ongoing excavations by Orkney College. Over the course of several years the ring has come to be understood as an area of significant ritual important after discoveries of chambered tombs, barrows, cairns, arrowheads, flint, some fallen stones, and the remains of a 100 meter stone wall. The exact purpose is not known, but in 1999 the ancient monument because a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as part of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney.”

That said, the site is a complex archaeological find for another reason as well. It was slightly augmented by Nordic invaders sometime around the 9th century during a series of Viking incursions into the British Isles. Various runes and runic carvings have shown up on stones and artefacts at the site, and serve as yet another example of how the Vikings imposed their complex theology onto existing monuments.