Five Bronze Age round barrows were recently unearthed in Hampshire. (Image: Steve Jones Drone Photography)

A Bronze Age barrow cemetery has been uncovered in Hampshire, along with a connected mortuary enclosure and other possible ritualistic features. After an earlier evaluation by Wessex Archaeology and a geophysical survey by GSB revealed ring ditches, the site’s potential archaeological significance was flagged – and with the area selected for development, Cotswold Archaeology began a 2ha excavation last November, targeting the areas highlighted during the initial investigation.

One of these seven selected zones, Area 6, was known to contain four large ring ditches, which were interpreted as the remains of Bronze Age round barrows. During the excavation, this was confirmed: the two largest measured 5m in width. Three of the barrows contained central cremations, while one held two empty central graves or pits and produced thousands of Roman pottery sherds from its upper ditch fills.

A further Bronze Age barrow was discovered just to the east, in Area 7. This too housed a central crouched burial, as well as fragments of pottery, a copper-alloy awl, and a flint thumbnail scraper. Other targets were five smaller regions that showed isolated features during the survey. They revealed a cluster of eight cremations, a small roundhouse, and a post-hole alignment.

Overall, this is an unusual discovery, since commercial excavations rarely reveal a whole barrow cemetery. Oliver Good, Project Manager of the excavation, said, ‘This exciting excavation provides us with the opportunity to significantly enhance our understanding of Hampshire’s Bronze Age landscape.’

All five barrows have now been cleaned and photographed, but excavations continue at the site and it is hoped that further discoveries will follow soon.

This article appeared in CA 337

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