ARCHAEOLOGICAL director Mike Emery believes new evidence shows a direct link between his dig south of Chester and Stonehenge.
His team has uncovered a 4,500 year-old limestone plaque at the Poulton excavation, bearing a mysterious crisscross pattern.
The closest parallel is a chalk plaque found in 1969 on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, just 1km from Stonehenge. The markings were made with a flint tool and flint from Salisbury Plain has previously been found on site.
“There has obviously been contact between the two areas,” said Mike. “There has got to have been trading of some kind.”
Mike explained that the plaque, found at the entrance to a later Bronze Age ring ditch monument, was connected with ritual or ceremonial activities, although its exact purpose is unknown.
He wonders whether it is linked to some form of funerary activity given its location close to cremated human bones.
Mike said: “That’s the mystery about it. No-one knows quite what it is. It’s the Poulton Code, like the Da Vinci Code! The only one which is remotely similar was found less than 1km from Stonehenge.
“It is connected with the dead and may be some sort of invocation to the Gods to look after this person in the next life, some form of primitive writing or could be something abstract that just looks pretty.”
Engraved plaques have been recovered from elsewhere, but are extremely rare and are almost always sculpted from chalk.
The cross-hatching pattern found on the plaque is also similar to designs found on ‘grooved ware’ pottery, which is unique to Britain and Ireland. However, this pottery is almost absent from the archaeological record in Cheshire.
Another mystery is the discovery of what is thought to be an Iron Age coin bearing the image of an animal, possibly a horse or a goat. Two universities have failed to identify the coin and now Mike will approach experts at The British Museum to see if they can shed any light on the find.
In a further development, Mike and his team hope they may finally have tracked down the site of Poulton’s lost Cistercian Abbey.
He and his team became side-tracked by the excavation of a linked chapel, the discovery of Bronze Age burials and a timber henge.
But the results of a major geophysics survey of a field called Ox Leasowe look promising and more tests are scheduled. The field seems to have remained unchanged for the last 330 years. On a bend in the River Dee, the site would have facilitated the plentiful water supply required by the Cistercians.