Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stanton Drew and its stones

The Avenue leading up from the river Chew

I have been to Stanton Drew several times over the years, its stones are less distinguished than either Stonehenge or Avebury, yet it is a favourite of mine, this large circle, the 'cinderalla' of the three great stone circles of Wessex. I have photographed most stones, they lie half hidden in the grass, some as grey as can be, whilst others have that lovely reddish tinge to them. When I first came upon them I saw them as 'bloodstained' with the strange little holes you see on one or two of them as the 'letting of blood' from the stone. Fanciful maybe, the colouring is after all only bought on by oxidisation or something. The village sits to the side of the stones, the church obscuring the great cove in the pub's garden, last time we were there we sat outside by the stones drinking beer and the pub's hens strolled around pecking aimlessly.
The Druid Arms, is a quiet pub and the home to the second cove in the district, funnily enough Avebury cove sits next to the Red Lion, though what's to be made of that fact I don't know.
Recently a thread has appeared on TMA about the nine concentric circles found in the centre, the theory is that what the geo-phys threw up with these enormous timber post holes (though that has'nt been confirmed) that it was a place to learn to hunt and slaughter pigs, an artifical forest or wood..... not sure I agree with that theory but its interesting. Apparently though there was a henge around it, again no longer visible, but additional survey work found that running outside the great stone circle 'is a ditch broken by a 50 metre wide entrance gap to the north-east, with another possibility to the south-west'.
In my Wooden Book on SD the timber circle is denoted as a great thatched house, and has some information on Guy Underwood's dowsing there, but the only spiral/ or concentric circles he found was at Hautville Quoit. When we there there was another dowser called Paul Dawes setting out his little red flags from one of the stones, when I asked him about Maes Knoll, which sits prominently on the horizon, he said that it had a relationship with the great circle - but there again.........
Further reading brings up the subject of 'closed' and 'open' sites, stone circles being open and timber circles being closed, the henge functions as a bank so that the seated spectators can see whatever is happening within the arena. The closed timber circle, and SD would have this aspect with all those timber posts, perhaps could be seen as a place for the ritual slaughter of young pigs, either marking a special feast day, or the culling of too many animals in the autumn. The West Kennet Palisade Enclosures which had evidence of a lot of pig bones (dates 2458-2046) bc) at Avebury seem to have a ritual function with 'offerings' being left around the post holes.
The argument arises as to whether stone and timber were contemporary, and there is no way of showing this at Stanton Drew till excavation takes place, both types of circles might represent completely different religions, or the timber circles could relate to a building, or even totem poles.But the fact is that sometimes timber circles have evidence of fencing, and there are parallel or at least similar features on the nearby Gorsey Bigbury henge and the Priddy Circles. At Gorsey Bigbury Henge there are two postholes in the north entrance, and it could well be that its original function was a stock enclosure, though later usuage during the Beaker period has somewhat disturbed it earlier beginning. Evidence of an 8 foot bank at Gorsey Bigsbury was seen by the Reverend Skinner in the 19th century but was subsequently ploughed out by a farmer.
There are four circles at Priddy, and it is the first one that is the most interesting. Definition of a henge is also a crucial point to understanding how they are often interpreted. For instance Gorsbury has an outer bank and an inner ditch, similar to Avebury, Stonehenge on the other hand has an inner bank and outer ditch. The Priddy circles also have an outer banks and inner ditches, but the bank in Circle One has been revetted with timber posts, with stones being piled into the bank and hurdling attached to post holes against the bank, making it a 'closed' circle

The half fallen stone.LS

'Squared' stone of which there are plenty.LS

The 'lion' stone.LS

The Cove

The church that stands between the circles and the cove

The 'rabbit' stone

refs; Jodie Lewis - Neolithic Somerset- Monuments, Ritual and Regionality
Gordon Strong - Stanton Drew and Its Ancient Stone Circle

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