Timber Circles – The Catholme ‘Sunburst’ Model.

The Catholme ‘Sunburst’ Model

Text by Henry Chapman

“The Sunburst ring ditch lay between an internal and an external bank, with a single break in its western side; it was just over 2m wide and survived to over half a metre deep. In places it seemed that it may have been preceded by a ring of pits, which lined up with the pits radiating out from the monument. We excavated 13 of these small pits beyond the ring ditch, showing that most had not held posts but were U-shaped in profile. After the ditch had refilled, it had been dug out again in segments.

The Catholme 'Sunburst' with 'Woodhenge' in the next field.

The Catholme ‘Sunburst’ with ‘Woodhenge’ in the next field.














At the centre of the ring ditch were the remains of a burial pit 2.4m×1.8m and 0.4m deep. The body had completely deteriorated but was identified by characteristic stains in the soil. Associated with the body were sherds of pottery and worked lithics. Ann Woodward has shown that the sherds probably derived from a single Beaker of David Clarke’s “Northern/North Rhine” group; petrographic study by Rob Ixer indicated that it may have travelled from northern England, or more likely from Scotland, suggesting the person was of some importance. Similarly, Lawrence Barfield suggests that some of the stone artefacts from the monument were not local.

Watters’ 3D modelling of the GPR data had accurately picked up the segmented recutting of the second phase, in addition to the earlier ditch and the central burial. It had also picked out the surrounding pits. Most significantly, the GPR had shown a circle of pits beneath the ring ditch, which we identified in excavation as a possible earlier phase. We would have missed these by excavation alone, which sampled the ring ditch in plan and section according to the scheduling constraints. However, with the three-dimensional GPR data, it was possible to understand this critical phase.

All this suggests that the radiating lines of pits had been the first monument. The innermost pit circle had then been reworked, initially with a hengiform type of ditch with a single entrance, and later by a segmented ditch. Modelling of the four radiocarbon dates from the ditch, by Derek Hamilton, Peter Marshall, Gordon Cook and Christopher Bronk Ramsey, indicated that the two phases occurred close together, with the recut around 2570–2490BC. In contrast, the Beaker pottery associated with the central burial suggests this was a later insertion at around 2000BC, some 500 years later. The “sunburst” itself remains undated, but must still have been visible when the first ditch was dug..”

Read the full story of the Catholme Timber Complex here.

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