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MAUMBURY RINGS

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A sub-circular earthwork enclosure which originated in the later Neolithic as a henge. The site was substantially modified in the Roman period when it was adapted for use as an amphitheatre. A further phase of remodelling occured during the Civil War, when the site was used as an artillery fort by Parliament supporters in order to guard the southern approach to Dorchester. The enclosure has an internal diameter of circa 47 metres, and an external diameter of 101 metres. Some excavation was undertaken at the site in 1879, but the principal excavations at the site were those undertaken by Harold St George Gray between 1908 and 1913. These showed the site to have originated in the later Neolithic (although there is some evidence for pre-henge features), and to comprise an external bank with internal ditch, the latter actually comprising a series of deep shafts cut into the chalk. These number up to 45, and were up to 11 metres deep. They included various deposits of artefacts and other material (including antler, animal and human bone, flints and carved chalk, including a phallic object), and the shafts/pits may have been deliberately backfilled. Dating evidence was sparse, comprising a single Grooved Ware sherd from one pit, and a Beaker sherd from secondary fill material. Two antler picks recovered by Gray have since been radiocarbon dated. They produced uncalibrated determinations of 1690+/-70bc and 1700+/-70bc. The henge had a single entrance, to the northeast. A large stone was discovered during cultivation in 1849 to the west of the entrance. It was reburied, and has not subsequently been relocated.

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