Books, Prehistory, The Ancient History of Wiltshire by Richard Colt Hoare Volume 1, Station 5 Amesbury South, Normanton Barrows
Normanton Barrows is in Station 5 Amesbury South.
The two first [No. 128 [Map] and No. 129 [Map]] had experienced a prior opening, but the cist of the latter, containing an interment of burned bones with a lance-head of brass, had escaped unnoticed. The third also had been partially opened; but some of the interments remained perfect and were attended with some novel and singular circumstances. At the depth of about a foot and a half from the surface, we discovered a skeleton with a drinking cup, and lower down a deposit of burned bones. On the east side of the barrow lay the skeletons of two infants, one with its head towards the east, the other towards the west, each placed over the head of a cow, which from fragments of the horns appeared to have been of a small size. We afterwards found a cist nearly four feet deep in the chalk, which contained, as we conceived, the primary interment, viz, the skeleton of a man; but these relicks had been disturbed, and some brazen articles, with which the bones were tinged had been removed.
No. 131 [Map] had been opened by the neighbouring farmers. In this barrow we found, in a deep cist, an unusually large quantity of burned bones, and with them two drinking cups, two incense cups, and two brass pins. One of the incense cups was preserved entire, and is engraved of the original size in TUMULUS Plate XXIV. The quantity of bones, and the duplicate articles would induce me to suppose that this mound was raised over the relicks of two persons.
NORMANTON GROUP. We now come to a noble group of barrows running in a line from south-east to north-west, diversified in their forms, perfect in their symmetry, and rich in their contents. I had always looked upon these barrows with a longing eye, but circumstances prevented my being present at the opening of them. The superintendance of our researches was therefore committed to the penetrating eye and experienced judgment of Mr. Cunnington, who, during his campaign in 1808, was gratified with the presence of several learned and well-informed people on the scene of action.
No. 139 [Map], a mean barrow, composed entirely of vegetable earth, produced within a shallow cist a pile of burned bones, and with them two fine daggers of brass, a long pin of the same metal in the form of a crutch, a whetstone, and a small pipe of bone. This last article is now broken, but it was originally about seven or eight inches long, and more than a quarter of an inch in diameter at the small, and half an inch at the large end; it is thin, and neatly polished, and has a perforation near the centre. The brass pin and whetstone are engraved in Tumuli Plate XXIV.
No. 147 [Map]. One of these two barrows, enclosed within the same ditch, was opened by Thomas, Earl of Pembroke, in the year 1722, and is marked A in TAB. IX. of Stukeley; and described at page 44 of his Stonehenge. Although the noble Peer made an entire segment in it from centre to circumference, his researches proved unsuccessful as to the primary interment, but he found the deposit of a skeleton three feet under the surface, with its head placed in a northerly direction towards Stonehenge. Our experience having given us repeated proofs that the system of opening barrows was but imperfectly understood in former days, we determined to try our luck, and on reaching the floor soon found, owing to a stratum of chalk, a clue to the cist, which contained an interment of burned bones, and with it two articles of ivory in high preservation. The one resembles in shape a small lance-head, the other is like the handle of a cup. Each is engraved in Tumuli Plate XXIV. The latter is the third article of the sort we have discovered, yet can we form no idea to what use it was appropriated. In the smaller barrow Dr. Stukeley had cleared a part of the floor, but not finding any interment, he left two half-pence covered with stones; one of the reign of King WILLIAM the Third, the other of King GEORGE the First, 1718. This last is in high preservation, though the period of 86 years has elapsed since it was deposited. On meeting with these tokens, our labourers left off work, thinking that the learned Doctor bad been beforehand with us, but from the circumstance of not meeting with any fragments of bones, Mr. Cunnington desired them to continue their researches; when, on exploring the floor of the barrow, they soon perceived the well known line of chalk, which led them to a cist at the east end of the barrow, and to an interment of burned bones, with which were deposited four amber beads, two of jet with convoluted stripes, and a little broken cup.
No. 155 [Map] is a fine bell-shaped barrow, 92 feet in diameter, and 11 in elevation, On the floor we found a large quantity of burned bones, and with them an earthen cup of a very singular and novel pattern, a cone of gold similar to the one discovered in the Golden barrow at Upton Lovel, five other articles of gold, and several curious ornaments of amber. The cup was unfortunately mutilated on one side by the pressure of incumbent earth, but its size and pattern will be sufficiently described by the annexed engraving, Tumuli Plate XXV. Aa enthusiastic antiquary, who was present at the opening of this barrow, fancied that he could trace in this cup a design taken from the outward circle of Stonehenge. The elegant cone of gold, No I, is ornamented at intervals with four circular indentations, which are all dotted with a pointed instrument, in the same manner as the lines on our British pottery, but none of the intervals of these circular lines are filled up with the zigzag ornament, as in the gold cone found at Upton. The base of the cone is covered with a place, which is also ornamented with indented circular lines, and is made to overlap the lower edge of the cone, to which it is fastened: it is perforated at bottom in two places for the purpose of suspension. The outward plate of thin, but pure, gold, is supported by a cone of blackish wood, on which the indentations correspond exactly with those on the outward cone. The horn like ornament, No. 2, is made of brass, but covered with thin plate of gold: two holes the broad part of it, seem to indicate that this also was an ornament of decoration, and worn by suspension; and from the position of the perforations in each of these articles, we might suppose they were worn with their points downwards. The two circular trinkets, No. 3, are extremely beautiful, and in high preservation; they are composed of red amber set round with gold, and are also perforated for suspension: they bear a very strong resemblance to some articles found by Dr. Stukeley in a barrow, north of Stonehenge, and engraved in TAB. XXXll. where he describes them as being of earth covered with gold. In No. 4, we see another trinket of red amber, decorated with fluted stripes of gold, and having the usual perforations: a thin bit of brass still adheres to it, and which appears to have been fastened to the amber by two rivets. No, 5 is a checquered plate of gold laid over a piece of polished bone. On first sight of this article we might be led to suppose that the hole on the cop had been made for the purpose of suspension, but on a close examination of it, we evidently see that the points never joined; and the holes for stringing are on the back part. Besides these various ornaments of gold, there were several articles of deep-coloured amber, and of a novel shape, No. 6. No barrow that we have yet opened has ever produced such a variety of singular and elegant articles, for except the cone of gold, all are novelties, both in pattern and design.
No. 156 [Map] is a fine bell-shaped barrow, 102 feet in base diameter, and 10 feet in elevation above the plain. It contained within a very shallow cist, the remains of a skeleton, whose head was placed towards the west, and a deposit of the most remarkable of which are two gold various elegant little trinkets; the most remarkable of which are two gold beads, engraved of their original size in Tumuli Plate XXV. No. 7, 8. The first is of an oblong form, large, and ornamented with circular rings; the other is much less, and of a globular; they appear to have been formed by first making a wooden bead, and then covering it with two thin plates of gold, which were overlapped in the centre, and made fast by indentation; for in none of these golden articles have we ever distinguished any marks of solder, or any other mode of fastening than by indentation. The large bead is perforated lengthways, the smaller one in two places on one side. Besides these beads of gold. there were several trinkets of jet, amber, &c. viz. a flat: piece of amber, No, 9; two other pieces, the one plain, the other marked with transverselines, both perforated; also two round beads of amber; a jet bead of a globular form, but much compressed, No. 10; another with convoluted stripes, No. 1; an article of jet, singular in its shape, No. 12; and some curious beads of stone, one of which, No. 13, seems to be the joint of a petrified echinus [sea urchin]. Besides the above articles, the most remarkable of which are engraved in Tumuli Plate XXV. we found another beautiful little grape cup, similar to those before described in Tumuli PlateS XI. and XXIV. in high preservation. There was also a drinking cup placed at the feet of the skeleton, which was unfortunately broken, but afterwards repaired.
No. 158 [Map]. Though Dr. Stukeley has given an engraving of this tumulus, under the title of BUSH BARROW, it does not appear that he ever attempted open it. It was formerly fenced round and planted with trees, and its exterior at present bears a very rough appearance from being covered with furze and heath. The first attempts made by Mr. Cunnington on this barrow proved unsuccessful, as also those of some farmers, who tried their skill in digging into it. Our researches were renewed ill September, 1808, and we were amply repaid for our perseverance and former disappointment. On reaching the floor of the barrow, we discovered the skeleton of a stout and tall man lying from south to north: the extreme length of his thigh bone was 20 inches. About 18 inches south of the head, we found several brass rivets intermixed with wood, and some thin bits of brass nearly decomposed. These articles covered a space of 12 inches or more; it is probable, therefore, that they were the mouldered remains of a shield. Near the shoulders lay the fine celt1 Tumuli Plate XXVI. No. 1, the lower end of which owes its great preservation to having been originally inserted in within a handle of wood. Near the right arm was a large dagger of brass, and a spear-head of the same metal, full thirteen inches long, and the largest we have ever found, though not so neat in its pattern as some others of an inferior size which have been engraved in our work. These were accompanied by a curious article of gold, which conceive had originally decorated the case of the dagger, Tumuli Plate XXVII, No. 1. The handle of wood belonging to this instrument, No. 2, exceeds any thing we have yet seen, both in design and execution, and could not he surpassed (if indeed equalled) by the most able workman of modern times. By the annexed engraving, you will immediately recognize the British zigzag, or the modern Vandyke pattern, which was formed with a labour and exactness almost unaccountable, by thousands of gold rivets, smaller than the smallest pin. The head of the handle, though exhibiting no variety of pattern, was also formed by the same kind of studding. So very minute, indeed, were these pins, that our labourers had thrown out thousands of them with their shovel, and scattered chem in every direction, before, by the necessary aid of a magnifying glass, we could discover what they were; but fortunately enough remained attached to the wood to enable us to develop the pattern. Beneath the fingers of the right hand lay a lance-head of brass, but so much corroded that it broke to pieces on moving. Immediately over the breast of the skeleton was a large plate of gold, Tumuli Plate XXVI. in the form of a lozenge, and measuring 7 inches by 6. It was fixed to a thin piece of wood, over the edges of which the gold was lapped: it is perforated at top and bottom, for the purpose, probably, of fastening it to the dress as a breast-plate. The even surface af this noble ornament is relieved by indented lines, checques, and zigzags, following the shape of the, outline, and forming lozenge within lozenge, diminishing gradually towards the centre. We next discovered, on the right side of the skeleton, a very curious perforated stone, some wrought articles of bone, many small rings of the same material, and another article of gold Plate XXVII, No 3, 4, 5. The stone is made out of a fossil mass of tubularia, and polished; rather of an egg form, or as a farmer who was present, observed, resembling the top of a large gimlet. It had a wooden handle, which was fixed into the perforation in the centre, and encircled by a neat ornament of brass, part of which still adheres to the stone. As this stone bears no marks of wear or attrition, I can hardly consider it to have been used as a domestic implement, and from the circumstance of its being composed of a mass of seaworms, or little serpents, I think we may not be too fanciful in considering it an article of consequence. We know, by history, that much importance was attached by the ancients to the serpent, and I have before had occasion to mention the veneration with which the glain nadrogth. was esteemed by the Britons; and my classical readers will recollect the fanciful story related by Pliny on this subject, who says, that the Druid's egg was formed by the scum of a vast multitude of serpents twisted and conjured up together. This stone, therefore, which contains a mass of or little serpents, might have been held in great veneration by the Britons, and considered of sufficient importance to merit a place amongst the many rich and valuable relicks deposited in this tumulus with the body of the deceased.
1. The word CELT has been applied to instruments of a very different form as well as composition, and has been written, engraved, and published concerning them. In the fifth volume of the Archæologia, we find a dissertation on them by Mr. Lort. accompanied by numerous engravings describing their different forms, some few of which resemble those that we have discovered; but one only is recorded a having been found in a Long barrow near Stonehenge by Dr. Stukeley, and rot recorded as a certainty. Much conjecture and debate have been employed by various authors respecting the original use of this instrument. Mr. Thoresby, in a letter to the celebrated antiquary Thomas Hearne, supposes them to have been heads of spears: or walking staves of the civilized Britons; but this opinion is rejected by Hearne, who thinks they were chissels used b the Romans for cutting and polishing stones. A curious inscription at Pola, in Istria, ascertains hat the word celtis denoted a chissel or graving tool, "Neque hic atramentum, vel papyrus, aut membrana ulla adhuc, sed malleolo et celie literatus silex, [Cruterus page 329]. Dr. Borlase also, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, page 281, has given an account of several brass Celts found in that county, together with an engraving. He supposes them to have been offensive weapons, and to have been made and used by the Romanized Britons. Dr. Stukeley attaches a degree of religious authority to them, by supposing that they were used by the Druids for cutting the mistletoe. These instruments differed in their construction, and in point of antiquity, l must give the priority of age to those discovered in our barrows, of which I am enabled to produce four specimens. The first engraved ia Tumuli Plate XXI is highly interesting, and shews the mode which the brass instrument was inserted in the handle. The second, engraved in Plate XXVI. is of a much larger size, but also had its handle; as well as two others engraved in subsequent plates, which, though smaller, resemble the others in form. I am obliged, from conviction, and from the strong evidence afforded by this handle, to differ from the learned antiquaries who have delivered their opinions on this subject. I cannot, with Mr. Thoresby and Dr. Borlase. suppose them to have been spear-heads, or offensive weapons; neither can I agree with the laborious antiquary, Thomas Hearne, in supposing them edge-tools for cutting stones, the metals of which they are formed are soft for such a purpose; neither can we find the edges furrowed and scratched by hard usage; nor can my antiquarian zeal and enthusiasm persuade me to coincide, in this instance, with the Druidical system of Dr, Stukeley. They appear to me to have been instruments used for domestic, not for mihitary, architectural, or purposes. These appear also to have been the first models, from which the pattern with sockets for the insertion of a handle was taken; for amongst the numerous specimens described by Mr. Lort in the Archæologia, not one of the latter pattern is mentioned as having been discovered in a barrow. As many similar instruments have been found in Gaul, and have been noticed by and Caylus, I cannot attribute the sole manufacture of them to Britain, but rather suppose they imported thither from the mother country on the continent; or perhaps the art of making them might have been introduced. One circumstance, I think, appears evident and conclusive viz. that the earliest pattern, and which probably gave rise to the larger and more ornamented one, was that described in four instances as having been discovered amongst other sepulchral deposits in British tumuli. The celts of flint, engraved in Tumuli PlateS V, VI. were evidently used for chipping stone or other materials, of which I can adduce a curious proof, by the circumstances attending discovery of one of these articles, which is now in my possession. Some workmen in cutting a canal, near Stockbridge, found several of these flint Celts dispersed about the soil, and deposited near the rude trunk af a tree, which was intended to have been fashioned by their means into a boat or canoe.
No. 159 [Map] and No. 160 [Map] are both Druid barrows: the former had been opened by Lord Pembroke, or Dr. Stukeley: the latter was investigated by us in the year 1804, and produced within a small circular cist, an internment of burned bones, and with it a great variety of amber, jet and glass beads.
In No. 161 [Map], which is a low barrow, elevated only two feet above the plain, we found a skeleton, with its head laid towards the south-east, and with it a drinking cup. Eighteen inches lower down was another, lying on its left side, with its head towards the east; and beneath it, we discovered a cist of the depth nearly of six feet, cut in the chalky rock, and containing the primary interment, of a young man, with his head lying towards the north, and a drinking cup close to his right hand; it had been neatly ornamented, but was broken by the pressure of the incumbent earth.
No. 164 [Map] may be considered as the most beautiful bell-shaped barrow in the plains of Stonehenge. Its base diameter is 145 feet, and its elevation 14½ feet. It contained within a very shallow cist, the skeleton of a man with his head deposited towards the north-east upon a plank of elm wood: on the left side of the head was a fine dagger of brass, and a small lance-head of the same metal, the former of which had been guarded by a wooden case: at the feet of the skeleton was a richly ornamented drinking cup, which was unfortunately crushed to pieces. We also found some stag's horns at the head and feet of the skeleton. In making the section in this barrow, our labourers perceived three apertures in the soil at some considerable distance apart, which at first they considered as rabbit holes, but on working further, they found that they extended from the top of the barrow to the interment of a skeleton at the bottom: and in these apertures they frequently discovered large quantities of petrified oak wood. It is difficult account for this singular circumstance, unless we suppose that, on the interment: of this Briton, three pieces of oak timber had been placed either upon or near the body, which diverged in an angular direction towards the summit, and as in process of rime the wood became nearly decomposed, the calcareous water, by draining through the apertures, might fossilize the decayed wood, and produce the above petrifaction.
and No. 171 [Map] denotes a group of various tumuli of the largest of which produced a rude urn, some jet beads, and different sizes; a brass pin. In another, which had been opened before, we found the fragments of a large urn, and a piece of granite similar to one found in a barrow at Upton Lovel. Nearly all the smaller barrows in this group contained simple interments of burned bones.
In No. 172 [Map] we at first discovered a circular cist, containinø a vast quantity of black ashes, with a fragments of burned bones; but the interment was placed on the Moor, by the side of the cist. the bones was found a large ring, and several beads of a dark olive brown colour. made from some bitutninized substance.
No. 173 [Map] is a long barrow. In making, as usual, our section at the broad end, where experience has taught us the sepulchral deposit was generally made, we discovered, at the depth of 18 inches from the surface, a skeleton, and on reaching the floor of the barrow, four other skeletons strangely huddled together; yet from the regular appearance of the stratum of chalk over them, we had no reason to think that the barrow had been opened before. The bones were in a high state of preservation, and one of the persons here interred seemed to have had no forehead, the sockets of his eyes appearing to have been on the top of his head, and the final termination of the vertebræ turned up so much, that we almost fancied we had found the remains of one of Lord Montboddo's animals.
In No. 176 [Map], a fine bell-shaped barrow, we found a skeleton lying on the floor with its head towards the north but the excessive severity of the weather prevented Mr. Cunnington from investigating this barrow as minutely as he could have wished.
No. 177 is only the base of a large circular barrow, the earth having been removed for agricultural purposes; yet we were fortunate in finding the spot where the deposit of burned bones was made, and with them a fine spear-head of brass.
Pursuing from hence a southern direction, and crossing a little valley to the opposite hill, crowned with numerous tumuli, I observed a solitary barrow in the bottom, which we found to be composed entirely of flints; and although we discovered the cist, yet we perceived no signs of any interment, or marks of a prior opening.