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Thames Valley Archaeological Services Monograph: Volume 17

The Oxford Henge and Late Saxon Massacre;
with Medieval and Later Occupation at
St John's College, Oxford

by Sean Wallis

Monograph 17 cover

Excavations at St John’s College in the heart of Oxford have dramatically altered our view of the prehistoric landscape, provided striking evidence of a massacre dating to around AD 1000, and shed light on the later occupation of the site: a suburb in the medieval period and later a farm.

The earliest feature was a massive ditch interpreted as part of a henge. Its diameter of just over 150m places it in the monumental class, of which only around 20 are known in Britain. These large henges are often the focus of a wider ritual landscape. The chronology of the henge can be traced from its construction at the end of the late Neolithic, up to the time when it disappeared as a major feature in the landscape in early medieval times.

Of particular significance is the discovery of at least 35 human skeletons, tumbled together into the depression left by the henge ditch. All were adult males, except two adolescents, all had met a violent death, many having been mutilated besides, and some partially burned. The evidence points towards these men being Danish victims of King Aethelred’s decree ordering their extermination in AD1002.

By the late 11th century, Oxford had expanded to form suburbs and the western part of the site was occupied at this time represented by a typical range of domestic features and property boundaries, though the area of the mass grave to the east was avoided. By the 13th century the site appears to have formed the rear of as many as five separate, narrow plots for properties fronting St Giles. There was a lull in activity during the 14th and first half of the 15th century, before use resumed in the second half of the 16th century as Blackhall Farm.

A4 soft cover, 295pp, illustrated throughout including 170 colour plates.

ISBN 978-0-9561974-5-0

Price: £24.00

Monographs

Newest Volumes: Our latest additions to the TVAS Monograph Series

Volume 1: Charnham Lane, Hungerford, Berkshire

Volume 2: Prehistoric, Roman and Saxon Sites in Eastern Berkshire

Volume 3: Excavations at Cippenham, Slough, Berkshire

Volume 4: Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon sites on Shrubsoles Hill, Sheppey and at Wises Lane, Borden, Kent

Volume 5: The Archaeology of the Aylesbury-Chalgrove gas pipeline and the Orchard, Walton Road, Aylesbury

Volume 6: Iron Age and Roman settlement and landscape at Totterdown Lane, Horcott near Fairford, Gloucestershire

Volume 7: Reading and Windsor: Old and New; Excavations 1995–2002

Volume 8: Excavations in Medieval Abingdon and Drayton, Oxfordshire

Volume 9: Archaeological Investigations in the Silchester Hinterland

Volume 10: Archaeological Investigations in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, 1992-2010

Volume 11: Archaeological Investigations in Surrey, 1997-2009

Volume 12: Archaeological Investigations along the line of Ermin Street in West Berkshire, 1992-2008

Volume 13: Archaeological Investigations to the south of Reading, 2002-2008

Volume 14: Settlement and Landscape Archaeology in the Middle Thames Valley: Slough and Environs

Volume 15: Bronze Age and Roman settlement, with Neolithic and Saxon burials, at Itchen Farm, Winchester, Hampshire

Volume 16: Iron Age Iron Production Sites in Berkshire

The Oxford Henge and Late Saxon Massacre; with Medieval and Later Occupation at St John's College, Oxford

Volume 18: Neolithic, Roman and Saxon Settlement at Arlington Way, Thetford, Norfolk

Volume 19: Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman Landscapes of the Coastal Plain, and a Late Iron Age Warrior Burial at North Bersted, Bognor Regis, West Sussex; Excavations 2007-2010

Volume 20: Archaeological Excavations at Roundhouse Farm, Marston Meysey, Wiltshire

Volume 21: An Iron Age Round House and Roman Villa at Chilton Fields, Oxfordshire

Volume 22: Roman Occupation at Chapel Farm, Blunsden, Swindon, Wiltshire (Lower Widhill Farm)

Volume 23: Archaeological excavations at Latton Quarry, Wiltshire

Volume 24: Bronze Age, Saxon and Medieval Evidence from Wantage, Oxfordshire: Excavations at St Mary’s and St Gabriel’s Schools

Volume 25: Neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon Occupation and Bronze Age Burial at Ibsley Quarry, Ibsley, Ringwood, Hampshire

Volume 26: Two Iron Age Occupation Sites on Andover Road and Cromwell Road in Winchester

Volume 27: A Bronze Age Ring Ditch and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Story's Meadow, Marland Land, West Meon, Hampshire