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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 1030942

Hob Uid: 1030942
Location :
City of Peterborough
Grid Ref : TF1260007720
Summary : A henge monument at Maxey, excavated in 1956-7, 1962-3 and 1979-81. It comprises an outer penannular ditch circa 126 metres in diameter, and with an entrance on the eastern side. There are indications that it was accompanied by an outer bank. Concentric to and within this enclosure is a ring-ditch 40 metres in diameter, sharing the same central point as the outer ditch. Excavations have shown that this ditch has no break in its circuit. It appears to have been accompanied by an internal bank. Within the enclosed area was a mound which, in the early 1960s, still survived as a slight earthwork feature. Finds from the outer ditch comprised solely of a few flint flakes, a localised concentration of collared urn sherds and a small quantity of animal bones, all from secondary contexts. The inner ditch and mound were less productive. There was no evidence for any funerary activity directly associated with Neolithic use of the monument. A scatter of Mid to Late Bronze Age flints was found in the ploughsoil. The henge and ring ditch cut the southern ditch of the cursus (TF 10 NW 58) in four places, and all three episodes of excavation confirmed that both features post-dated the cursus, probably by some considerable time. In addition, the henge and ring ditch, as well as the oval barrow (TF 10 NW 97) located within the henge entrance all share a different alignment to the cursus. Note also that the area is disturbed by later, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval features (see associated monument records).
More information : (TF 126077 derived from OS 1:10000) The multi-period site at Maxey was discovered by Dr. J.K.St. Joseph from aerial photography (see TF 10 NW 1 for an outline of the main features).

Circular cropmarks at Maxey were noted in the 1956 RCHME survey. (1) Rescue excavations were undertaken by Dr J Alexander in 1956-7. Dr Alexander excavated at the intersection between the supposed henge and the cursus (TF 10 NW 58). This limited excavation demonstrated that the 'henge' post-dated the cursus but Dr Alexander suggested that it could be as late as medieval. (2)

In 1962-63 WG Simpson excavated at Maxey examining the West, North and Central areas of the site. (3) The henge monument was found to consist of three nearly contemporary elements; an outer penannular ditch with a central ring-ditch enclosing a mound of topsoil.

The excavations revealed that the NE section of the penannular ditch had been dug in a series of straight lengths. The general lack of gravel in the fill suggested that the ditch had been filled up largely by natural processes. The inner ring ditch was c39m in external diameter, c 3m wide and 50-75cm deep enclosing a mound of turf and topsoil. Some of the mound material and topsoil was removed by the quarry operator between the 1956-7 excavations and 1962. Damage was largely confined to the SW quadrant. The south side of the mound was cut by a late Iron Age linear boundary ditch.

Simpson excavated two cremation pit circles in the southern half of the henge. Each circle comprised of ten oval pits of similar size, the pits forming the larger 'circle A' are more widely spaced than those which form 'circle B'. There was evidence for recutting in many of the pits and some contained charcoal. Unburnt fragments of bone, teeth and ten sherds of pottery were found within the pits. A rim sherd, probably from a staight sided Mildenhall bowl was found. Pit 1 of circle B cut through the primary silts of the cursus ditch.

A number of post-holes were found in the area of the two pit circles were probably associated with the rectangular Iron Age enclosure. Samples of oak charcoal from a pit in each pit circle were radiocarbon dated to 1730 +-90 bp and 1640+-90 bp (GaK-657 & 658). These results are inconsistant with the archaeological evidence and may be accounted for by contamination from the overlying medieval headland. (3)

In 1979-81 Frances Pryor excavated at Maxey finding the henge monument complex to comprise of three elements: the oval barrow, the central ring ditch and the henge ditch. (4) A medieval headland had preserved the oval barrow and central ring ditch. By contrast the henge ditch was seriously truncated.

The henge and central ring ditch cut the south cursus ditch in at least four places. Pryor suggested that the cursus ditch must have been infilled for several years before the henge and its associated features were constructed. The precise alignment and similarities in construction techniques suggested that the oval barrow, henge ditch and ring ditch were contructed at the same time.

The oval barrow comprised of a steep side sub-oval gully aligned EW measuring 15.5m x 10.5m. A natural entranceway broached the gully to the ESE. There was evidence for a continuous series of post-pipes representing a massive timber wall or revetment. The timbers were probably burnt in situ in at least one place. The post pits and a buried soil horizon were overlain by a turf barrow mound and in turn by the medieval plough headland. A crouched burial was found in a shallow grave close to the centre of the oval barrow. The body was orientated head to the north, facing east. Despite wet sieving no artefacts were found.

The henge showed as penanular ditches in aerial photographs with a single entrance to the east. The oval barrow sits within the entrance. The henge has a distinctly polygonal shape overall. The henge ditch had a 'U' shaped profile and was considerably damaged by ploughing. A handful of animal bone and two flint flakes were found. Also a small localised concentration of Collared urn fragments possibly representing a Bronze Age cremation near the ditch inner rim.

The central ring ditch and mound were very slightly oval in shape, the E-W axis was longest and was aligned on the oval barrow. There were slight remnants of an earth and turf mound constructed in two parts but the evidence did not suggest that the mound was constructed as a barrow or was long lived. There were few finds - three used and three waste flakes, one Collared Urn sherd. The ring ditch cut the south cursus ditch and was cut by a middle Iron Age ditch.(4)

The Maxey great henge was larger externally than Stonehenge but was unusual in having a central round mound and an oval barrow in its entrance. The site went through four stages, none of them intensive or long lasting:

Stage 1 Turf was stripped from the area
Stage 2 Ring ditch was dug with the spoil piled up in the
centre to form a mound. The great henge was dug and
the spoil piled to form a bank outside the ditch. An
oval enclosure formed by a continuous wall of 156
squared beams was erected in the henge entrance.
Stage 3 The oval timber enclosure was burnt down and the outer
bank of the henge was pushed into the ditch. The
central mound was partially pushed into the ring ditch.
Stage 4 A mound was raised in the centre of the henge, covering
the ring ditch. The oval barrow was constructed over
a crouched burial set at the centre of the burnt out
oval enclosure.

Finally the whole site was abandoned. Pryor suggests that the site may have been in use for no more than a decade. (5)

Additional reference. (6)

Maxey, structures 14 and 15. TF 126 072 (sic). Double ditched circular enclosure. One of the two excavation reports refers to 14 as the 'central ring ditch' and 15 as the 'henge' but this report treats them as a unity. The narrow outer ditch separates this site from the main henge series, and the internal ring-ditch is continuous. However, a relationship to the henge tradition is suggested. (7)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : A matter of time: an archaeological survey of the river gravels of England
Source details :
Page(s) : 24-May
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 1a
Source details : St Joseph, JK. 1956. Recent Archaeological Excavations, p278
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 1b
Source : CBA research reports
Source details : 1963
Page(s) : 23
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13
Source Number : 2
Source : Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 213
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1958
Source Number : 3
Source : The Fenland Project, no.1 : archaeology and environment in the Lower Welland Valley
Source details : Simpson, WG. Excavations at Maxey, Bardyke Field, 1962-63.
Page(s) : 245-264
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 27 (i-ii)
Source Number : 4
Source : The Fenland Project, no.1 : archaeology and environment in the Lower Welland Valley
Source details : [including Chapter 2 (Excavations at Maxey, 1979-81)]
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 27 (i-ii)
Source Number : 5
Source : Current archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 96
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 9(1), 1985
Source Number : 6
Source : Current archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 1967
Source Number : 7
Source : Henge monuments and related sites of Great Britain : air photographic evidence and catalogue
Source details : Site 020
Page(s) : 86-8
Figs. : 88
Plates :
Vol(s) : 175

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Henge
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Cropmark
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Lithic Scatter, Findspot
Evidence : Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Late Neolithic
Component Monument Type : Henge
Object Material : Flint
Period : Bronze Age
Component Monument Type : Lithic Scatter, Findspot
Object Material : Pottery, Flint

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TF 10 NW 59
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1030941
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1030953
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1217325
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1217443
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1030943
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1086262
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, MAXEY CURSUS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1957-01-01
End Date : 1958-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BARDYKE FIELD WEST (OS 125)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1962-01-01
End Date : 1963-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LOWER WELLAND VALLEY PROJECT
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31