Stanwell Cursus

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The Stanwell Cursus is a long linear monument constructed of two ditches about twenty metres apart. Soil from the ditches was banked up between them, forming a mound two metres high. The ditches were dug as a series of individual constructions, possibly by family groups. Cropmarks show that the cursus ran for over three kilometres. Early Neolithic pottery found on the base of the ditches suggests that the cursus was in use between 3600 and 3300 BC. The monument may have served several important roles in the lives of the Neolithic communities. It linked together and overlay important locations in the landscape, including the Mesolithic pit cluster dug over three thousand years earlier and a row of early Neolithic timber post settings. The central bank may have been an elevated processional route, visible to those in the surrounding area. Located on the transition between the Colne floodplain to the west and the flat gravel terrace of Hounslow Heath to the east, the cursus would have emphasised changes in the topography, geology and vegetation between the two areas. The cursus also divided the landscape visually. Viewed from the west, people processing along the bank would seem to be walking on the skyline but the view to the east was blocked by the bank, creating a false horizon. People standing on the bank could be seen but also had a view to both the east and west. The cursus would almost certainly have been associated with ritual or ceremonial activity, both during and after its construction – activity that served to bond the inhabitants of the area in a spirit of shared purpose, with a strong sense of the past as well as of the present.