The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

The Sanctuary

Timber Circle


Details of the Sanctuary on Pastscape

(SU 11846802) The Sanctuary (NAT) Stone Circle (NR) (site of) (1)
The concrete blocks which denote the positions of the stones have been surveyed at 1/2500 but the concrete markers indicating the positions of the wooden post holes have been omitted (limitation of scale). (3)
The Sanctuary was the site of a pair of concentric stone circles. When visited in the later 17th century by Aubrey and early 18th century by Stukeley it seems that many of the stones were still extant although most had fallen. However the bulk of the stones appear to have been removed and/or destroyed in the years around 1724. The records of Aubrey and Stukely were used to relocate the site in 1930, and following its discovery it was completely excavated. The two stone circles proved to have been preceded by six concentric timber rings. Numerous artefacts came from post holes, but the phasing of the various circles remains unclear. The bulk of the pottery found was of later Neolithic date, including Grooved Ware, although both earlier (Windmill Hill) and later (Beaker) sherds were present. The site appears to be connected via
the West Kennet Avenue (SU 16 NW 101) with the henge-enclosure and stone circles at Avebury (SU 16 NW 22). Following excavation, the locations of the various post-holes and stone settings were marked out on the ground. (4-5)
Suggested reconstructions of the structures at the Sanctuary have been published by Piggott (6) and Musson (7). (6-7) [See SU 16 NW 22 for additional bibliography].
An RCHME 1:2500 scale, level 3 air photographic survey (Event UID 936869) was carried out on this monument in January 1992. The site is extant and no change was made to the record. The archive created by this project (Collection UID 936807) is held by RCHME. (8)
The archive and finds from the Cunningtons' excavations have been reconsidered by Pollard, who suggests a rather simpler phasing and constructional sequence for the site than previously suggested. The main construction phase is suggested to have occurred around 2500 BC and was associated primarily with Grooved Ware. Pre-construction activity is represented by earlier ceramic and lithic finds. A crouched inhumation with Beaker, found in a grave adjacent to one of the stones, was suggested by Cunnington to be broadly contemporary with construction. Pollard suggests that it is in fact among the last archaeologically visible events at the site, c.2000 BC (with the exception of the appearance of Romano-British potsherds in upper fills of features) (9).
The Sanctuary is known from partial excavation in the 1930s and 1960s to have had two concentric circles of stones and four concentric circles of timber rings. The outer circle measured about 40 metres in diameter and included 42 sarsen stones. Four main phases have been postulated: Phase 1: a 5 metre diameter circle of seven timber posts around a central post; Phase 2: a 6 metre diameter circle of 8 posts surrounded by a 11 metre diameter circle of 12 posts; Phase 3: an additional circle of 21 metre diameter of 33 posts. A smaller stone circle was constructed and an entrance built on the south eastern side; Phase 4: construction of the outer stone circle and the avenue from avebury was built. This indicates that the Sanctuary was important prior to the construction of the avebury henge and that it continued to be significant after. (10) Brief details of the site. (11)
Excavations in 1999 aimed to reconcile discrepancies between the original 1930's excavation report and the diary of W E V Young, the excavation foreman at the time. A number of important new finds were uncovered, including a large group of lithics, and new insights into the nature of the Sanctuary's construction are made. These include evidence that some of the posts were repeatedly renewed. (12)
The author puts his case for an earlier single-phase roofed structure. (13)
Chance Posted by Chance
29th October 2012ce

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