Dot, dot, dot…

We are continuing with the post-excavation analysis on this summer’s dig on the New Laund enclosure. In particular I’ve been carrying on with the work we started last week looking at which finds came from where. The finds plots this week should hopefully be a bit clearer as I’ve overlaid them onto the plans of the excavated features. So, for example, a slightly tidied up version of the distribution of worked stone I put up last week looks like this when it is over the top of the site plan for trench D.

On this plot brown is flint and blue is chert. The square symbols are formal tools like scrapers and the diamonds are waste flakes and chunks, what we call debitage. As I said last week, what this mostly shows is that there is a fairly even spread of chert and flint across the whole of site D.

I’ve done the same kind of thing with the pieces of burnt bone from trench D (there is a single piece of this from trench C too but that wouldn’t make a very exciting plot, even to me). The burnt bone fragments are mostly too small to say very much about. Sam, who is just finishing her PhD on Early Bronze Age burials from the north of England, has looked at it and been able to establish that at least some of it is human. It is likely that all these pieces of bone are the disturbed remains of one or more cremation burial. I was hoping that plotting out their locations would help us decide where those burials were.

We have 24 fragments of cremated bone from various features on site D. There is a scatter of this stuff over the whole of the northern and eastern part of the trench. Mostly this is the bits we found in the later hillwash layer (context D02) that covers the prehistoric features. There are also lots of pieces within the fill of the curved feature. In the interim report I said that I thought that all the posts in the enclosure had been pulled out. It looks as if, as this was happening, then one or more cremation burials were disturbed and got scattered into the fill of the feature and the interior of the circle of posts (assuming for the moment that there was a full circle of posts in the centre).

We also know that some of the postholes are of different dates and it is interesting that it is only the main feature that has cremated bone in it. I think this means that the cremation or cremations were only around a post or posts in what I am assuming for the moment was the main post ring.

For the sake of completeness I’ve also included the other plot I did today, showing the distribution of charcoal fragments from trench D.

Here we can see a similar pattern to the cremated bone fragments but with an even stronger clustering around the main feature. This is mostly because we only collected charcoal once we were sure that there was no possibility of it being the remains of relatively modern burning on the surface. and so most of it came from the fills of the main curvilinear ditch.

Going back to the cremated bone, even if our cremation(s) were originally buried within the area we dug this year, we obviously haven’t got anything like a whole person in our finds bags. The bits we have weigh just over 10 g in total and some of that is certainly soil. If you cremate an adult you get a bit more than 1.5 kg of bone left. In the north-west of England prehistoric cremations are known from all kinds of places dating to both the Later part of the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age. They are found both within Urns and apparently just placed in the ground in something like a leather bag. They are found on barrows, ring cairns and even natural places like the grikes in limestone pavements.

For example, Inside the Bleasdale timber circle, just about 7 km away from New Laund Hill, was a smaller circle of posts which surrounded a pit. In the pit were two Early Bronze Age urns and a miniature cup (called an accessory vessel). There was a lot of charcoal with this deposit and apparently also some cremations, although very little of this cremated bone now survives. All the finds from the Bleasdale excavations are in the Harris Museum in Preston, now on display in the brand new galleries just re-opened for this year’s Preston Guild celebrations.


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