The OE term hearg is interpreted variously as 'pagan temple', 'hilltop sanctuary' and even 'idol'. It is a rare survival in the English place-name record. When it can be identified, the place name is commonly considered to refer to a location of pre-Christian religious activity, specifically a pagan Anglo-Saxon temple. Taking inspiration from the extensive and methodologically well-advanced studies in Scandinavia, which have successfully related place-name evidence for cultic and religious sites with the archaeology and topography of these localities, this paper adopts and uses a similar methodology to investigate the archaeological and topographic character of a selection of hearg locations. The traditional interpretations of the place name are questioned and evidence is presented that these sites are characterized by long-lived, localized cult practice spanning the late prehistoric to early historic periods, but with activity reaching a zenith in the late Iron Age to Romano-British eras, rather than the fifth to seventh centuries AD.
Semple, S. (2007). Defining the OE Hearg: a preliminary archaeological and topographic examination of hearg place names and their hinterlands. Early Medieval Europe, 15(4), 364-385. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0254.2007.00212.x