Trench 3 Week 5

Final stages of excavation

Final stages of recording the structure of the cairn




The nature of the cairn in trench 3 and activities around it may becoming clearer. It is oriented north-west to south-east with its well-built formal façade of upright stones facing north-west. This is approximately 45 degrees out of alignment with the grid of cairns arranged in north to south rows across the rectangular field. It also appears to have a relationship with the entrance in the field boundary excavated in trench 4 (see diary week 5, trench 4). This orientation is the same as a round cairn we excavated two years ago further to the south and which had pottery deposited infront of its façade.





The facade of upright stones is now clearly visible


We dismantled the part of the cairn in the south-east quadrant which was disturbed by rabbits. On Saturday morning a flint implement was found within this disturbed ground by Jim, the trench supervisor, as he began to explain to a group of diggers which soil he wanted removing. After we managed to calm him down and prise the artefact from his sweaty palm his excitement was understandable - he had found a polished flint knife dating to the later Neolithic and often found in burials. The soil it was found within had come from immediately in front of a rabbit burrow which went deeper under the cairn. This can be added to other flint implements of a broadly similar date: the group of flint thumbnail scrapers and the flint knife found immediately infront of the formal façade (see week 3 diary), and the leaf-shaped arrowhead found in week one in further rabbit disturbance (see week 1 diary). We now think that we may have a later Neolithic/earlier Bronze Age monument, possibly a burial site. This is approximately 1000 years earlier than the majority of artefacts found in the surrounding trenches!

We are also finding the remains of a number of hearths placed around the west side of the cairn. These comprise patches of burnt ground and burnt stones. While there are no significant deposits of charcoal within the hearths, they and the surrounding soil do contain numerous individual pieces of charcoal, some over a cubic centimetre in size. This could suggest that the hearths have been disturbed by later cultivation.

A number of small hearths are found a short distance from the cairn (place mouse over image)


While some of the upper stones of the cairn may be the result of later field clearance there is no obvious difference in the stones which make up the body of the cairn - they may all be placed to construct the cairn itself. Only when we start to dig in the fourth quadrant will we be take these alternate interpretations further. At present then, we think we may have a later Neolithic funerary monument incorporated into a later Bronze Age/Iron Age field!


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