New Excavations at Priddy Circle 1, Mendip Hills, Somerset (UBSS Proceedings v.25(2))
Abstract: In August 2008, small-scale research excavations were carried out at Priddy Circle 1, one of four related circular earthwork enclosures located on the Mendip Hills in Somerset. The date and function of the Priddy Circles has been much debated, largely due to the morphology of the monuments: they have external ditches and internal banks which seem to have been revetted by wooden posts. Although E. K. Tratman, who was involved in excavating a number of trenches across Priddy Circle 1, suggested that the monuments were related to henges and thus of Neolithic date, the lack of artefacts and radiocarbon dates, together with the unusual layout and construction, has led to much speculation. The reopening of one of the earlier excavation trench across the bank and ditch of Circle 1 showed that his interpretation of the constructional sequence was erroneous, with greater complexity revealed in the bank/ditch/posthole sequence, suggesting that the monument's construction went through more than one phase. So far, three radiocarbon determinations have been returned and these suggest a Later Neolithic date for the monument but it is argued that the monuments are not henges but belong to a tradition of enclosure that predates them and had a different function. A palaeo-environmental study was able to successfully retrieve and analyse pollen from several different contexts and all confirm Dimbleby's original assertion (1967) that the Circles were constructed in an open grassland environment.