Building for Ritual

The gravel terrace south of Forteviot supported one of the key power centres of Neolithic Britain. Human activity started around 3000 BC with cremation burials. Around 2700 BC a massive palisaded enclosure was built, one of the largest in prehistoric Britain. A circular area some 250m in diameter was defined by over 200 towering oak posts, each up to 6m tall. Entry was on the north side, via a claustrophobic 4m wide avenue of posts. It would have taken a large workforce many years and acres of forest to build a monument of this scale.

The sacred quality of the site grew over time, with additional monuments. Within the great enclosure, two timber circles were built. The largest was 40m in diameter and enclosed the location of the earlier cremation cemetery. The large palisaded enclosure could have played host to huge ceremonial gatherings and may have attracted pilgrims from across Britain. Three circular earthwork henge monuments were constructed around 2500 BC. These began as ritual spaces enclosed within curving banks and ditches, but eventually became places of burials marked by barrows. The most spectacular from the early Bronze Age, around 2000 BC, stood perhaps 5m high. All but one of the Forteviot barrows has now been ploughed flat, but they served as focal points for burial into the Pictish period.

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