AN archaeologist from Ledbury has discovered that the site of an early medieval church could be the oldest known continuously-used sacred site in Britain- dating back more than 4,000 years.

Janey Green, of Baskerville Archaeology Services, Ledbury, has found evidence to suggest that the site in Shropshire has been a sacred place from at least 2,000 years before Christ until the present day.

Carbon dating of a wooden post, which was extracted from the dig, has shown it was first placed in the ground in 2033 BC – a time when the ancient Egyptians were still building pyramids.

Archaeologists expected the post to turn out to be Anglo-Saxon, so were surprised to discover it dated from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age period instead.

The dig has given a fuller picture of the ancient history of the site at Sutton in Shrewsbury, currently occupied by an early Medieval church.

Ms Green said: "We believe we’ve found a sacred site dating back over 4,000 years. It appears the current Medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial ground that has been in use from the late Neolithic period through to Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and through to today.

“These findings appear to indicate that this special place has been recognised and honoured by our ancestors from at least 2,000 years before Christ until the present day.

“To put it into context – this was being built and used at the same time as the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids for their Pharoah's and writing in hieroglyphics.

“What makes this site different is the continuity of ritual practice in one form or another. It predates the Basilica of Rome."

The post is linked to a discovery during the 1960s and 1970s on neighbouring land, when archaeologists discovered burial mounds and cremations, slots for standing stones and two rows of Neolithic post holes and a ditch, known as a cursus, which they interpreted as processional walkway. It was aligned east to west, extending towards the current late 12th/early 13th century church.

The discovery of the post in front of the church shows evidence that the cursus appears to run underneath the church, as the post is of the same age.

More work needs to be done on this in a phase two excavation. The church is now seeking extra funding to help with this.