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

Miscellaneous Posts by danielspaniel

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Wolstonbury (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Bronze Age Axehead found near Wolstonbury - 4/5/2012

Cor, wish I'd found that!


Experience the landscape

Installation, performance, and experiential walks on the South Downs in partnership with the National Trust

April – October 2011
Performance journeys
Wolstonbury Hill (Brighton) October 8/9

Join RED EARTH to explore the archaeology and ecology of the South Downs: visit two site-specific installations, and come and be part of the performance journeys across these two stunning landscapes.

More info:

Wolstonbury Barrows

It should also be noted that William Hamper, in 1806, noted a barrow within the NW quadrant of the Wolstonbury hilltop enclosures. No clear trace of this exists, and it is possible that Hamper mistook quarry spoil for a barrow. However, if it was a barrow it is possible that some of the Roman coins recorded by Hamper and the other prestige items and weaponry alleged to be found within the enclosure may have originated from it as primary or secondary deposits.

Wolstonbury Platform Barrow

This interesting specimen is also situated on farm land, just to the NW of the bowl barrow. It is a long stretched out thing that runs down the slope to the west. Again it seems badly truncated, but it is the only platform barrow I have knowingly visited, so it is worth a look.

Wolstonbury Cross Ridge Dyke

This linear earthwork appears to be one of the later prehistoric linear boundaries recorded from the southern chalklands. What exactly their purpose was has regularly defied interpretation. They have variously been referred to as; roads, defensive outworks, covered ways, barriers, toll bars or drove ways, 'Celtic' fields, ranch boundaries or pastoral enclosures. Even precise terminology is difficult. (I am using 'Dyke' on TMA for want of a better site type, but please do not take this as an implication of function.)

Came Wood (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Came Wood is a feast of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows of several varieties. The round barrows and long barrow south of the woods are generally on arable land and under cultivation, but in the wood itself there are 2 bell barrows, a pond barrow and a long barrow.
They lie at the end of the cemetery of barrows that stretch along the South Dorset Ridgeway. It has been suggested that they formed the boundary of territory based around the major Neolithic ritual monuments of Maiden Castle, Maumbury Rings, Mount Pleasant and the destroyed Flagstones and Greyhound Yard sites in Dorchester.

Devil's Dyke (West Sussex) (Hillfort)

The name 'Devils Dyke' was originally applied to the earthworks, but it is now used to cover the deep, natural valley shown on the bottom of the black and white aerial photo above.

Wolstonbury (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

I present here an extract of correspondence between myself and Miles Russell, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University. He excavated some of Wolstonbury in 1995, and discovered the nearby Mile Oak Henge.

> The report on the web seems to conclude that it is a Bronze Age
> enclosure, while the interim report states that 'of all the
> Wolstonbury C interpretations, that of Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze
> Age henge monument, is by far the most plausible.' Is this still your take on it?

[Miles Russell] the most plausible interpretation, from the C14 dates supplied (approximating around 1000 BC) is that the section of ditch sampled in 1995 dates from the later Bronze Age, but this doesn't explain the exterior bank - There may well be an earlier (henge) phase at Wolstonbury (and only further examination would prove or disprove this) reworked and modified in the Later Bronze Age - it's certainly an anomalous (not to say mysterious) site and I'd love it to be a henge dominating the concentration of Late Neolithic material in the Brighton area of the South Downs, but more work really needs to be done here.

>The things that turned me off the henge
> idea were location and size (although, as you rightly point out, there are henges on hilltops and of comparable size and larger), plus the lack of similar monuments in Sussex.

[Miles Russell] certainly the location is unlike most other henges, but the size and basic form are spot on

> I also thought that if you were going to build a henge, you would go
> to the trouble of clearing away the old field lynchets (if that's what
> they are) that are in the center! If the site is ceremonial/ non-utiliarian, do you think the use of the 3 earthworks may be related, with the monument being expanded over time to accommodate a growing population?

[Miles Russell] problem is the field banks are themselves undated (and very poorly preserved). The lynchets could conceivably be later, their shape reflecting that of the enclosure banks already in existence

>And what about Mile Oak? I have to admit to not having heard of this site before and it rather blows my 'no Sussex henges' theory out of the water! Do you still feel this is definitely a henge? I would be keen to see any reports you may have on that site. Is it visitable, or buried under the A27?

[Miles Russell] Mile Oak is definitely a henge. Sadly it was destroyed by the A27 (its position is close to the eastbound lay-by as you emerge from the Southwick tunnel heading into Brighton). The site report, written in 1991, was finally published by English Heritage as part of the A27 archaeological report entitled "Downland settlement and land-use" edited by David Rudling in 2002. I don't possess an electronic copy of the report (sadly) and as I recall the finished tome is expensive- £30 I think (though it may now be discounted) - last saw it advertised on the Oxbow Books website

but I imagine that most reference libraries in Sussex have a copy. There must be other similar sites on the chalk, they just have yet to be found!

Many Thanks to Miles Russell for taking the time to answer these questions.

Wolstonbury: a Henge?

(Many thanks to Miles Russell of Bournemouth University for providing the interim report of his 1995 excavations at Wolstonbury, from which some of this information is taken)

The widely held belief that most, if not all, Sussex downland univallate enclosures are Iron Age or later has been shown to be inaccurate by the discovery of at least four continuously ditched sites of Neolithic construction: Bury Hill, Court Hill 1 and 2 and Halnaker Hill. All sites were thought to be Iron Age, prior to excavation.

The Sussex Downs are often thought to be completely lacking in Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age ritual/ communal monuments such as Henges. This was challenged in 1989 with the discovery of an Early Bronze Age, class II (double entrance) henge monument at Mile Oak farm, 6km to the south west of Wolstonbury, during rescue excavations in advance of the A27 Brighton bypass (Rudling and Russell 1990; Russell 1996.)
There is also a cluster of found 'exotic' grave goods, metalwork and stone tools of this date in central southern Sussex that would 'appear to emphasise the ritual/ ceremonial importance of the Wolstonbury/ Brighton Zone in the Later Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.'

Two of the things that put me off the Wolstonbury Henge theory are location and size. However, there are Henges on hilltops (Figsbury Rings for example). And although it is big for a henge, it is not as big as 'henge enclosures' like Durrington Walls, Mount Pleasant and Marden.

Wolstonbury has been heavily damaged by 18th-19th Century flint quarrying, with lots of small pits being dug here and there. This has led to much speculation regarding the original entrances, as the north and south sections of the bank have been so affected by quarrying that the entrance could have faced in either of the two directions. Two potential entrances aligned on a North – South East orientation is akin to recorded examples of Class II Henge.

Unfortunately, funding fell through for planned further investigations at Wolstonbury. I believe this monument warrants further research, if it does indeed constitute a 'non-utilitarian' monument on the Sussex Downs.
Originally from Weymouth in Dorset, I now live in Hurst, West Sussex.

Would be pleased to meet up with folk in the area to visit and discuss local sites.

I have a particular interest in the mysterious collections of Sussex sarsens at various sites and the enigma of Wolstonbury Hill.

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