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8 November 2016
Dartmoor stone circle test excavations

Sittaford Stone Circle, located in Devon (England) was revealed by the actions of peat cutters in more recent centuries, and rediscovered in 2008 by a local amateur archaeologist after a moorland fire, appears undisturbed.
     An undisturbed stone circle is highly unusual.
     Dartmoor National Park Authority archaeologist Lee Bray says: "This lack of disturbance is one of the facts that makes the site special. That this hasn't happened at Sittaford - as far as we know - makes the site of national significance as it has the potential to shed light on stone circles which is unclouded by the activities of intervening periods."
     The ring of 30 stones is over 30 metres in diameter, making it one of the largest stone circles in the national park. The monument lies on the edge of the blanket bog on the summit of a ridge about 300 metres southwest of Sittaford Tor at over 520 metres elevation.
     An earlier geophysical survey suggested features not visible on the surface.
     Four trenches were dug in five days - three revealing stones of the circle, the fourth investigating a curiously deep area of peat within the monument. One stone was associated with packing stones, indicating that it had been placed upright, but none of the trenches revealed a socket in which the stones could have stood.
     Bray wonders whether the ring could have been temporary, or unfinished: "Various interpretations are possible and we're currently considering all the available evidence to try to identify the most likely conclusion."
     No artefacts were found, but samples of peat taken from beneath them which may allow an estimate of the time the stones have been in their current positions. Two dates obtained previously both suggested the stones were lying down by around 2,000 BCE.

Edited from Okehampton Times (4 November 2016)

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