From 1946 to 1952. excavations were undertaken in advance of destruction by gravel workings of a series of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age monuments at Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxon. These included a long enclosure, a cursus, a double ditched henge, pit circles and ring ditches with primary and secondary cremation burials and a notable Beaker burial. Sites I, II, IV, V and VI, all pit circles or ring ditches, were published in 1951. This report describes sites III, VIII, IX, XI, XII, XIII and XIV. By the early 1950s much of the Neolithic complex had been quarried for gravel, and other adjacent areas subsequently were dug away. In 1981 the construction of a bypass led to the excavation of further surviving parts of the complex: site 1, a long D-shaped enclosure incorporated in the southern end of the cursus, and sites 2, 3 and 4.
Both sets of sites are presented together, largely following the chronological scheme proposed for the complex by Bradley and Chambers (1988). Site VIII and site 1 are long enclosures of Earlier Neolithic date, with human remains. The latter site has a calibrated date of 3773–3378 BC. Site III is a cursus at least 1600 m long which cuts site VIII and incorporates site 1. A date of 3360–3040 BC was obtained from the primary fill of its ditch. Site XI is a three-phase ring ditch, perhaps successive enlargements of a barrow, but its innermost ditch is cut by a pit circle with cremations. There are Ebbsfleet sherds in the outermost ditch, and dates of 3037–2788 and 3024–2908 BC from the innermost, perhaps primary, ditch. Site XIV is a ring ditch succeeded by the Big Rings henge. Site 3 is a post circle between the ditches of the southern part of the cursus, with some secondary cremations. It has dates from the outer wood of its posts of 2890–2499, 2886–2491 and 2872–2470 BC; dates on charcoal associated with secondary cremations were 2880–2470, 2870–2460 and 2123–1740 BC. Site 2 is a penannular ring ditch with a primary date of 2912–2705 BC, and secondary cremations. Site XII is a notable Beaker burial within a two-phase ring ditch. An adult man was laid crouched on a bier and was accompanied by a fine W/MR beaker, a stone bracer, a tanged copper knife and a small riveted knife with at least one rivet of tin bronze. Traces of a stretcher-like feature were found in an adjacent pit which cuts the inner ring ditch. Site XIII, the Big Rings, is a large double ditched enclosure with central bank and opposed entrances. There was Beaker pottery in the primary fill of the inner ditch, but very little material was found in either ditch, and there were minimal features in the interior, part of which was stripped. Site 4 consists of two conjoined ring ditches within the southern end of the cursus. It encloses cremation burials. One, accompanied by an awl and Collared Urn, has a date of 2290–1910 BC. Traces of a ditched field system (originally referred to as a droveway, site IX) of later Bronze Age date were found cutting sites III, VIII and XIII, and paired ditches on site 1 may be related.
The complex is related to its local and regional context, and the sequence of development is discussed. A timescale measured in generations is advocated, with phases of continuity and episodes of little activity both represented. Several aspects of monuments are considered: their differing scales including the monumental, their ability to endure and create tradition, and finally the choice of designs, from the locally customary to the exotic.