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Historic England Research Records

Maumbury Rings

Hob Uid: 451843
Location :
Dorset
West Dorset
Dorchester
Grid Ref : SY6902089920
Summary : 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.
More information : (SY 6902 8992) Maumbury Rings (OE) (1)

Henge Monument adapted as amphitheatre (2). Class I henge monument. Neolithic affinity (3).

Excavated by H St George Gray 1908-1913. The present structure is essentially of one prehistoric period, but was adapted by the Romans as an amphitheatre and used as a Parliamentary fort in the Civil War when a gun emplacement in the SW and the internal terrace were built. It was a uniform circular structure with an original height of 15 ft, but the Romans destroyed internal features by levelling it down by 11.75 ft. Only the bottom of the quarry ditch, which consisted of several contiguous funnel-shaped holes dug to an original depth of 35 ft, remained. Ditch and exterior bank had enclosed an area of 280 ft in diameter, bank crest to bank crest, with a single entrance in the North East. A large stone appears to have existed on the west side of the entrance until 1846 when it was buried but no trace of it was found in the excavations of 1879 and 1908-13. The cordoned ware found falls into the grooved ware category. Flint types are EBA. (4-11)

Several used antler picks, some cordoned pottery and a chalk phallic symbol were found in the pits. Other finds from the excavations include an uninscribed British coin, Roman pottery, fibulae, coins and an RB burial. There was no indication of seat tiers.

This grass-covered earthwork is in a good state of preservation though the summit of the bank, average width 4.0m, has been mutilated in several places. The sides are steep and in the interior have been mutilated on the East and West sides by a narrow terrace which gives the broken-slope effect as shown on OS plans. In the East the average vertical drop is internally 5.6m and externally 4.0m.

From the centre of the interior the land slopes gradually up to the only entrance which is in the North East, and fairly steeply up to the top of the bank where the civil war gun platform and ramp has slightly lowered the height of the bank and has made its ascent in the SW more gradual than elsewhere.

There is no trace of the internal nor of an external ditch. The finds were seen in the Dorset County Museum. (13)

Long recognised as the amphitheatre of Durnovaria, modified during the Civil War. Its original construction as a Neolithic Henge monument incorporating unique features was revealed by the excavations of 1908-13. There is little evidence for the dating of the Roman work, although an inhumation of the 2nd century is certainly later than the construction; the objects on the arena floor and elsewhere suggest use in the 4th century. (13)

Re-surveyed at 1:2500 incorporating R.C.H.M. plan. (15)

Maumbury Rings. Listed by Harding and Lee as a classic henge monument with evidence for pre-henge pits and gullies. (16)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1928-38
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : OS Ancient Britain Map 1951 Index
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details :
Page(s) : 45-9
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 33, 1912
Source Number : 12
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 206
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 50, 1928
Source Number : 13
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JR 20-AUG-54
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Source Number : 14
Source : An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume two : south-east [in three parts]
Source details :
Page(s) : 589-92
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Source Number : 15
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 JGB 05-JUN-80
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Source Number : 16
Source : Henge monuments and related sites of Great Britain : air photographic evidence and catalogue
Source details : Site 055
Page(s) : 133-134
Figs. : 132
Plates :
Vol(s) : 175
Source Number : 17
Source : Archaeologia : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : Bradley, R. Maumbury Rings, Dorchester: the excavations of 1908-13.
Page(s) : Jan-97
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 105, 1975
Source Number : 18
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : Bradley, R and J Thomas. Some new information on the henge monument at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester.
Page(s) : 132-4
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Vol(s) : 106, 1984
Source Number :
Source : RCHME: Maumbury Rings, Dorset
Source details :
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : OS Professional Papers No 13 1951 19
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Source Number : 4
Source : Antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 155-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1939
Source Number : 5
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Pope, A. The amphitheatre at Dorset.
Page(s) : 66-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1885
Source Number : 6
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Gray, H St G. Interim report on the excavations at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, 1908
Page(s) : 256-72
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 29, 1908
Source Number : 7
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Gray, H St G. Interim report on the excavations at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, 1909.
Page(s) : 215-35
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 30, 1909
Source Number : 8
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Gray, H St G. Short report on the excavations of Maumbury Rings of 1910.
Page(s) : 232-66
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 31, 1910
Source Number : 9
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Gray, H St G. Interim report on excavations of Maumbury Rings, Dorset, 1912.
Page(s) : 80-106
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 34, 1913
Source Number : 10
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club
Source details : Gray, H St G. Fifth interim report on the excavations at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester.
Page(s) : 88-118
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Neolithic
Display Date : Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -4000
Monument Type : Pit, Gully
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Henge
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Bronze Age
Display Date : Early Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -1600
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Amphitheatre, Inhumation
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : English Civil War
Monument End Date : 1643
Monument Start Date : 1642
Monument Type : Gun Emplacement, Fort, Inhumation
Evidence : Earthwork, Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Period : Late Neolithic
Component Monument Type : Henge
Object Type : HUMAN REMAINS, PICK, VESSEL, ANIMAL REMAINS, LITHIC IMPLEMENT, PHALLIC OBJECT
Object Material : Pottery, Antler, Flint
Period : Early Bronze Age
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : VESSEL, LITHIC IMPLEMENT
Object Material : Pottery, Flint
Period : Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : COIN, VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Amphitheatre, Inhumation
Object Type : COIN, BROOCH, VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 41a
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 41b
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 41c
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SY 68 NE 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1879-01-01
End Date : 1879-12-31
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1901-01-01
End Date : 1901-12-31
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1908-01-01
End Date : 1913-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 68 NE 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1954-08-20
End Date : 1954-08-20
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 68 NE 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1980-06-05
End Date : 1980-06-05
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : POLICE HEADQUARTERS, WEYMOUTH AVENUE
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : MAUMBURY RINGS FANCING
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31