6,000-Year-Old Monument May Be An Ancient "House Lannister" Hall

An aerial view of the site. Andy Burns/University of Reading

So is the Cat’s Brain long barrow representative of a Neolithic House Lannister of some sort? Perhaps.

Speaking to IFLScience, Leary explains that “it's pretty well established now that the early Neolithic was what anthropologists call a 'house society'.” He adds that as well as pre-existing evidence elsewhere for these community-built timber halls, “we also have evidence for communal get-togethers and feasting within 'causewayed enclosures'.”

Leary does add, however, that “the archaeological evidence for the early Neolithic is relatively poor,” so they are doing the best with what they have.

Another view of the site from above. Adam Stanford/University of Reading

Incidentally, there’s still a chance that the “house of the dead” idea isn’t too far off either. Leary ponders whether this structure could be some sort of church-like construct in which living people mingled with artifacts of their ancestors.

Much of the site remains enigmatic. Take the engraved chalk stones, for example, found on several occasions during the dig.

Are these carvings symbolic or linguistic, or are they just damaged soft rock? Leary suspects that the forms and shapes are the product of “human workmanship” and “were of significance”, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.

It's clear that, right now, Cat’s Brain brings up more questions than it answers. Thanks to this excavation, however, we’re closer to finding out more about our long-gone ancestors than ever before.

Something no-one really seems to have an answer to is the etymology of the area’s name. According to extracts from the English Place Name Survey dug up by Leary, it could be an obtuse reference to the local geology – but the text also adds that “the reason for the name is obscure!”

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