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Somerset Historic Environment Record

23603

Site Name: Prehistoric, Roman and Post-Roman occupation, Glastonbury Tor
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: St Michael's Church, monastic remains, and other settlement remains on Glastonbury Tor [No:29700]
Civil Parish: Glastonbury
Part of:
PRN 22946Glastonbury Tor
Grid Ref: ST 512 386 (ST 53 NW)
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Image: Image of HER 23603 - Photo by Somerset County Council (05 July 1989)
  HER 23603 - Photo by Somerset County Council (05 July 1989)

Public access:

As far as we are aware all or part of this site is on National Trust land open to the public. (Open Access). [Information last updated on 20 December 2002]

Details:

Excavation of the summit and the shoulder of Glastonbury Tor in 1964-66. (PRN 44979). Prehistoric and Roman evidence included no structures but several finds: flints of the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and later dates, a neolithic greenstone axe, seven RB coarse sherds, four Samian sherds and 20 Roman tile fragments. They were all probably casual depositions.

Dark Age evidence centred on C6. Two graves and a pit complex were on the N side of the shoulder. The burials were of young people and badly disturbed but enough remained in situ to show that they were extended inhumations in shallow graves with heads to the S. Timber buildings were located on the shelf seen by post holes and a definite timber slot. May have been a total of five buildings on platforms of unrecognisable plan or type. One was c30x25ft with hearths. The hearths suggested bronze working but no slag was seen. Steps were found cut into the bedrock leading from the occupation site together with a holloway, the latter continuing in use until the medieval period. The area was covered by an occupation layer containing animal bones, ash and charcoal. Other finds included 14 sherds of imported Mediterranean pottery, two sherds of local grass tempered pottery and various metal objects including a small iron-cored bronze head thought to be a detached ornament, perhaps a cauldron escutcheon Interpretation: the occupation may be seen as a religious site. Unlikely that the Tor was a pagan site, although there is nothing in the archaeological evidence to contradict this and the N-S burials may support the view. More likely it may have been a small Celtic christian monastic site. Its remoteness and exposed position might well have made it attractive to early Christian ascetics. The pottery and metal working support this, but the quantity of meat bones do not. Alternatively it could be a defensive or quasi-military site. The Tor is a naturally defensive position and may have been either an outpost for another site such as South Cadbury or more likely have been a small permanently occupied stronghold of a local chieftain. This is supported by the imported pottery, meat bones, amphorae and metal working hearths. {1}

For subsequent periods see PRN 23604 Late Saxon - early medieval.

PRN 23605 Medieval and post medieval.

See also PRN 23565 for further Roman finds {4}

It has been suggested that Glastonbury abbey (PRN 25547) may have formed as a secondary settlement to that on the Tor due to lack of space. {5}

References:

1 Excavation report - Rahtz, P. Excavations at Glastonbury Tor, Somerset 1964-6. Archaeological Journal  127 (1970), 1-81
2 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 53 NW 4 (1978) Location: HER files under PRN 23605.
3 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 53 NW 5 (1966) Location: HER files under PRN 23605.
4 Compiler comment - Dennison, E [Ed]. Somerset County Council, Sites and Monuments Record (30/05/1985). Location: verbal or direct entry to database, no other records.
5 Detailed records - Rahtz, P. Book of Glastonbury.  (1993)

Record created in May 1985

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