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| The Berth |
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|Description ||Our c. 300 BC reconstruction from the cow track lane view.
It would certainly follow all current knowledge to say the Berth could have been a religious site. There was nothing more sacred to the ancient Britons than water. The amount of votive offerings found in rivers and lakes are testament to this - including the bronze cauldron found here in 1906 (I'll display an old photo and our reconstruction of it at a later date). To spend the time they did making these offerings - which could be anything from carved wood to an ornate bronze shield* - the wet stuff must have been very important. It may have been their connections to the "Other World" and the afterlife. To be surrounded by it, as on the Berth, must have been like being in heaven to them... literally! They wouldn't have seen this site the way we do. We may appreciate its beauty, but they saw and experienced far more. Just walking across the causeway may have been something special to them. They probably had a respect (or fear) for the marsh or mere that we can never understand. As pointed out by Brian Bates in his book The Real Middle Earth:
"To these people of the real Middle-earth, the landscape took on a whole new meaning. Elvish spirits populated the trees, streams and stones, dwarves forged magical weapons, giants menaced from the mountains, and fire-breathing dragons slumbered under hills..."
(Of course, he's referring to many other peoples besides the Celts, but the general meaning still applies).
It seems from the archaeological evidence that most hill forts had a religious shrine. These varied in style from region to region but probably all had a similar function. Here they would pray to their gods and sacrifice animals... yes, and humans. Maybe this is what the La Tene III period dagger and knife found at the Berth were used for? (A recent discovery at Humber estuary in the east of England found a hill fort whose sole purpose seems to have been as a ritual killing site).
The Outer Enclosure could also have been of some religious significance, either as a place of worship or as a burial ground. As I've already said, it's almost the shape of a Bronze Age burial 'Pond Burrow' tumuli. There are six Bronze Age burial rings in the Baschurch environs so this isn't out of the questions. There have also been Bronze Age finds from the Berth Pool.
For anyone interested, the rings all lie on the Baschurch to Ruyton XI Town's road. The first is situated in the field on the right just after the crossroad and the ’40 mph’ sign as you head towards Ruyton (west). The other five are grouped together and lie further west, but I haven't discovered which field as yet.
*Although it doesn’t relate to the Berth, a bronze shield was supposedly found at nearby Hordley in 1804. This subsequently went missing, so we've no idea if the story's true or whether this shield was anything like the famous Battersea or Cherstey shields found in the Thames or the Witham shield from Lincolnshire? My mother-in-law tells me that she heard a story about a farmer using this shield as a 'door' to a piggery! Whether this is just an urban, or rather, rural myth, I don't know. Hordley was also the site of an Iron Age axe find, as well the discovery of a large Iron Age enclosure and 362 Roman coins, dated between 138 and 282 AD, in an earthenware jar.
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