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Uley : History
The Uley complex as it might have appeared in the second and third centuries AD. The reconstruction image includes the temple, other excavated buildings and possible additional buildings on the edge of the settlement. (Woodward and Leach 1993 fig. 212. Illustration by Joanna Richards. Copyright JFR 1993)

Beneath the Roman temple are the remains of an earlier shrine, a square timber structure in a subrectangular ditched enclosure, constructed in the half century preceding the Roman conquest (AD 43). This earlier shrine itself reused earlier ditches, possible traces of a Neolithic long barrow like nearby Hetty Pegler's Tump. A temple was constructed in stone in the early second century AD, along with other buildings round about. The sanctuary continued to be maintained and modified for almost three hundred years, but showed signs of decline by the final decades of the fourth century. The temple was in much reduced form following demolition or partial collapse. Around the temple other structures too were ruinous or had been demolished by the early fifth century.

However the Uley complex was not abandoned, since the site continued in use as a cult place, a rare instance of continuity from the Roman to early medieval periods. An aisled timber building with a semicircular annexe was erected on the site of the temple during the fifth century and was rebuilt in stone in the early sixth century. These structures have been interpreted as a church and baptistery, but the form and parallels of the buildings are uncertain. Carefully buried outside the annexe was the head of the cult statue of Mercury from the temple, which must have been curated for at least a century after the collapse of the building. To the north was a substantial turf built bank, perhaps marking the perimeter of the site. At some point in the seventh or eighth centuries these buildings had fallen into disrepair.

The long history of the site has complicated our understanding of ritual and life at Uley. Few objects, votive or otherwise, were found in the primary contexts in which they were deposited. The temple seems to have been periodically cleaned of accumulated votives to free space. During demolition votive objects were cleared out of the temple and spread with building debris over the site of the temple and surrounding structures. Further movement of material took place after the Roman period, for example in gathering soil and rubble to construct the perimeter bank. Thus votive objects were mixed with household rubbish. Objects deposited in the second century were found by the excavators in the same contexts as those dating to two centuries later. Medieval and modern ploughing has had a further effect on removing material from its archaeological context.

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