Medieval graffiti which experts believe was written to repel evil spirits has been discovered by archaeologists.
A series of lines radiating from a drilled hole, almost like spokes on a wheel, were discovered on two stones at the remains of a church in Buckinghamshire.
Historians believe such markings are witches’ marks, created to ward off evil spirits by trapping them in an endless line or maze.
They can also be interpreted as early sun dials.
The location of one of the stones at the medieval church of St Mary’s, Stoke Mandeville, suggests the markings could have been created for protection.
The discovery was made by archaeologists working for the high-speed rail project HS2, the route of which will go through the site of the 12th century church.
The 700-year-old building was abandoned in 1866 when a new church was built closer to the village.
Work by archaeologists to dismantle and excavate the church will continue into next year, and include the removal and reburial of bodies in graves.
HS2 Ltd lead archaeologist Michael Court said: “The archaeology work being undertaken as part of the HS2 project is allowing us to reveal years of heritage and British history and share it with the world.
“Discoveries such as these unusual markings have opened up discussions as to their purpose and usage, offering a fascinating insight into the past.”
Similar witch markings have turned up at medieval sites across the UK, including a set discovered last year at Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge and cave complex that has been inhabited on and off since the last ice age.
The markings are typically etched into stones near doorways, windows and fireplaces, to keep spirits away.