Sophie Edwards, writing in the Echo Newspaper on 10 March, reports on  the find  of  eight Neolithic houses dating from 2000-4000bce at a site between Basildon and Wickford in Essex. “Workers at the dig also found the remains of timber posts set in circles and a rare cursus monument, said to show the area was once used for pre-Christian religious rites. A cursus monument is two parallel banks of earth about 160 feet apart, at right angles to a river.”

Cursus monuments are rare, and their purpose still poorly understood.* Not far from the Basildon Cursus however there once existed a similar cursus at Springfield in Chelmsford, Essex. The Springfield (Chelmer) Cursus seems to have been similar to the Basildon one as it ran close to the river and also had a wooden circle at its east end (see the artist’s impression below of the Springfield Cursus, reproduced here with the kind permission of Essex County Council).
 
 
 
 
The Springfield Cursus. Watercolour by Frank Gardiner © Essex County Council
 
Sadly, the Springfield Cursus, which was still visible in aerial photographs taken during the last century, now lies beneath Chelmer Village, while the wooden circle that once stood at its east end is buried beneath a supermarket carpark. Let’s hope the newly discovered Basildon Cursus, with its associated Neolithic remains, does not suffer the same fate as its nearby Springfield cousin in Chelmsford.
 
* See http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba69/feat1.shtml and Hedges, J, & Buckley, D G, 1981, Springfield cursus and the cursus problem (Essex County Council Occasional Paper 1). Chelmsford. Essex County Council.