Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 is in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02

John Ward, Esq., F.S.A., communicated the following notes on several barrows recently opened in Derbyshire:

"It will be recollected that I have already described four Derbyshire barrows investigated by my friend Mr. Micah Salt of Buxton and his son; those of Grinlow and Thirkelow Frith, in a paper read before the Society on May 9th, 1895;1 and those of Stoop High Edge and Thirkelow in one read on December 19th, 1896.+ I now communicate particulars of three others, the first of which was intended for the last paper, but I withheld it at the last moment, hoping that Mr. Salt would be able to send samples of the green leaves which were found in the grave.

Note 1. Proceedings, 2nd S. XV. 419-429,

Note 2. Ibid. XVI. 261-267.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Gospel Hillock

About half a mile south-west of the village of King's Sterndale, a village 2½ miles east-south-east of Buxton, are two barrows about 140 yards apart known as 'Gospel Hillocks.' [Gospel Hillock Barrow [Map] and High Low Barrow [Map]] They are upon the slopes of High Cliff, a knoll on the high ground immediately south of the river Wye, and they have an elevation of between 1,000 and 1,100 feet above the sea. They are both marked on the 6 inches to 1 mile Ordnance Survey (1883). The largest, the one to the south-west [Map], is circular, and is almost demolished; the other, that to the north-east [Map], is oval, 30 feet by 21 feet and about 4 feet high, and it also has suffered somewhat, a portion of its summit having been removed many years ago to supply materials for repairing the neighbouring roads. This, the oval barrow, Messrs. Salt explored on 7th January, 1896.

They began their attack on the northern side and worked towards the centre. Immediately below the turf they found scattered human bones in an advanced stage of decay and a multitude of the ever-present rats' bones.1 Fourteen human teeth were picked up from among these remains, which evidently belonged to two individuals, the one young and the other middle-aged. Some fragments of burnt bones and a calcined flint flake about 14 inch long were also found. These human remains doubtlessly related to several secondary interments which had been disturbed by the removal of stone for road-mending.

In the centre the diggers found, upon a level with the natural surface, a thick stone about 3 feet square, which resisted all efforts to remove it. They therefore filled in their trench, intending to make a fresh essay another day. It is a curious coincidence that a Captain Lukis in 1865 opened one of these barrows2, and in so doing came to a ponderous stone which he was unable to move, and apparently he did not make a second attempt. I mentioned this in a letter to the Salts, suggesting that this was the stone which they had discovered, and that it probably covered a cist. It turned out, however, upon inquiry that Captain Luckis's barrow was the larger one to the south-west. I hope our friends will turn their attention to the large stone of that barrow, and will let us know what lies beneath it.

Note 1. These bones, which are abundantly found in most burial belong for the most part to the water-vole.

Note 2. See Reliquary, viii. 85.

To return to the first stone. Messrs. Salt made a second attempt to remove it, but again without success. A few days later they cut a trench from the south side of the barrow to the centre, in the process of which they again found traces of superficially placed secondary interments. When the great stone was again cleared they broke it and removed it piece-meal. It was found to cover an excavated grave, which contained a tenacious clay mixed with grass and leaves that still retained their green colour. Several of these leaves were selected to send me, but they rapidly lost colour upon exposure to the air, and as they dried they shrivelled up. The leaves, to judge from a rough sketch of one, were oval, and about 1¼ inches long. This clay had covered up the interment, of which only a few extremely decayed unburnt bones remained. From the small size of the grave the body must have been in the usual contracted attitude. Several bits of burnt bone were also found, but whether they were human or animal was not certain, and, of course, there were innumerable rats' bones.

The use of puddled or tempered clay is a feature of common occurrence in the Romano-British and Post-Roman barrows in this part of the country; but the similar use of clay and fine earth in the earlier British interments has only occasionally been recorded ; perhaps, however, it has been more frequent than has been supposed, as it is a feature which may be easily overlooked by the barrow-digger. In Bateman's Vestiges of the Antiquities of Derbyshire and Ten Years' Diggings there are about eight undoubted British examples in which the skeleton is described as embedded in stiff clay or earth. In most instances the practice has had a destructive effect upon the bones, but in others it seems to have acted as a preservative. It certainly has had the former effect in this Gospel Hillock interment. The presence of vegetable remains, as might be expected, is very rarein British interments. The only notable Derbyshire example was one at Shuttlestone near Parwich, in which the corpse had been shrouded in skin and laid upon a bed of fern fronds.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Fairfield

On the 29th of October, 1895, Messrs. Salt opened a barrow, known as The Low [Fairfield Low [Map]], on a hill about 3 mile east of Fairfield and 14 mile east-north-east of Buxton. It is circular, about 60 feet in diameter and 4 feet in height, and is composed of gravel and soil. A large portion extending from the south-east side to almost the centre has long been removed in the process of quarrying the limestone rock below. Messrs. Salt began their work by cutting a trench from the abrupt edge left by the quarrymen to and beyond the centre. At or a trifle west of the centre they found the scattered remains of a skeleton in a very decayed condition, lying on the natural rock, which was here about 30 inches below the summit. With these remains were a multitude of rats' bones, several teeth of probably the stag, charred bones, and charcoal.

On the following day the trench was continued further north. At about 38 feet beyond the above interment were found (1st), at a depth of only 6 inches below the turf, part of a stag's horn, several shapeless bits of iron, and a fragment of red wheel-made pottery ; and (2nd), 18 inches deeper, a piece of red ochre, a flint flake, a fragment of coarse pottery, and several pieces of sandstone which had been in the fire. It is evident that all this portion of the barrow had been disturbed on some former occasion. The higher objects probably related to a late interment.

On January 31st following Messrs. Salt resumed their diggings, and soon found an undisturbed interment some distance east of the centre. It was an unburnt skeleton in good preservation, lying on its left side in the usual flexed attitude, with the head towards the south-east. It rested upon the natural rock at a depth of about 2 feet from the summit of the barrow, and it had no further protection than that afforded by several large stones at the back. In the immediate vicinity were a few chippings of flint, coal, fragments of burnt bone (presumably animals'), and two indeterminate pieces of iron. These fragments of iron were about 7s inch in thickness, and on one side could be plainly seen under a magnifying-glass some hairy substance adhering to the rust.

About 3 feet north-west of the knees of this skeleton were the fragmentary remains of a child, with which were associated a few more flint chippings, and a light blue glass object of the shape and size of a pea, drilled half way through, and probably the head of a pin. Somewhat south of these interments, and a little nearer the centre, was a broken, kiln-fired, slate-coloured vessel, which may be described as an oviform jar with a wide mouth 6 inches in diameter and 7 or 8 inches in height. It is of the coarse ware found abundantly on most Romano-British sites, and there is no reason to doubt that it belongs to that period.

The skull of the skeleton above mentioned is of decided brachycephalic configuration and character; and, so far as measurements go, this character would be more pronounced had not its left side been flattened in the grave. As it is, its cephalic index is 85·39, the greatest length being 7·26 inches, and the greatest breadth 6·2 inches. Compared with the Grinlow skull1 it is less massive and rugged; but the most notable difference is the flatness of its vertex, which in the former skull is considerably elevated. Brachycephalic skulls of both types have been noticed in the barrows of this district by Bateman and Jewitt, under the designations of acrocephalic and platycephalic, respectively ; but it would be interesting to know how far posthumous distortion is responsible for these variations. I pointed out in the case of the Grinlow skull, that the elevation of the vertex was certainly due, in some measure at least, to the flattening of the occiput. This Fairfield skull appears to have belonged to a man who died in the middle period of life.

See Proceedings, 2nd S. xv. 422.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Abney

In the summer of 1896, Messrs. Salt opened a small cairn, 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height, on the elevated tract of shale-grit near Abney Low, about 2 miles S.W. of Hathersage. The only indications of an interment were some charcoal and a flint flake on the natural surface. A large number of barrows have been opened or destroyed in this district, that is, on Eyam, Abney, and Offerton Moors, and the moors around Hathersage, during the past century, and they seem to have invariably contained cremated interments, many with results as meagre as in the above instance, the calcined bones having disappeared. In others, the bones were enclosed in cinerary urns of the usual British type. The district of the Hartle and Stanton Moors, near Rowsley, is also characterised by cremated interments, and in both (this region and that above) circles abound ; whereas they are rarely found where inhumation is the rule.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Thirkelow

The investigation of this interesting barrow by Messrs. Salt and myself, in 1895, was described in the paper read before this Society on December 17th, 1896. We subsequently (on August 30th, 1897) made a further investigation, removing on this occasion an area of several square yards down to the natural surface, in the north-west region. The only objects met with were several stray fragments, human and animal bones, part of an iron horse or ox shoe, and a small coin. The fragment of shoe was found near the surface. The coin is of much greater interest. I sent it to Mr. Grueber, of the British Museum, who described it thus: 'It is a British imitation of a Half-Solidus of Constantius II., a.p. 337-361. The coin from which it is copied was much larger, nearly the size of the present farthing. I should say your coin could not have been struck much after s.D. 360. The obverse shows the diademed bust of the emperor, and the reverse a soldier in the act of despatching a fallen foe, with the indistinct legend, FEL TEMP REPAR. The coin was found near the bottom of the barrow, adhering to the upper surface of a stone. Its position thus was no proof that it was contemporaneous with the first construction of the barrow. Even at the time of our digging, most of the spaces between the lower stones were still open; and it was obvious that if a small object like a coin successfully passed through the vegetable mould which filled the upper interspaces, it might easily slip down to the floor of the barrow. Probably this ancient coin related to a superficially placed Romano-British interment, which has long since disappeared.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Hill Head

In September, 1897, and the following February Messrs. Salt examined the remains of a small barrow on the north-east foot of Hill-Head [Hill Head Barrow [Map]], a hill 2½ miles south-east of Buxton. It is oval, about 25 feet by 15 feet, nowhere exceeding 18 inches in height, and appears to have consisted of earth and stones. The results of the excavations were very meagre, consisting of a few scattered burnt bones and one flint flake ; and I only mention the circumstance because the existence of this barrow had not been previously noted.

Books, Prehistory, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries V17 1899 Feb 02: Stoop High Edge

This barrow was first opened by the Salts in 1894, on which occasion their excavations were confined to the central region, An account of this investigation was published in the Proceedings of this Society.1 They again opened this barrow on August 19th, 1897, when a trench was cut from the centre to the south edge. About 4 feet from this edge two contracted skeletons in a state of extreme decay were found, the one above the other. The upper one was about 18 inches below the surface of the barrow. It related apparently to a middle-aged' person, and lay on its left side with the head to the north. The lower one, which seemed to belong to an older person, lay on the right side with the head towards the west. Both skeletons were surrounded by stones, and were embedded in clay and gravel. Mr. W. H. Salt considers that they were buried together, that is, that they formed one interment.

Note 1. 2nd S. xvi. 261.

On December 30th last (1898) Messrs. Salt again opened this barrow. They began by cutting a trench near the western margin. After proceeding in a northerly direction, rats' bones and small pieces of human bones were noted, and this led them to deviate towards the east, when they soon met with two upright projections of the natural rock with a passage-like space between them. This space varied from 10 to about 20 inches in width, and was about 48 inches long; and it con- tained a large quantity of burnt human bones, with the usual intermixture of rats' bones. 'The human bones were in small fragments, none of the pieces exceeding an inch in length. With them were a small piece of coal, several bones, apparently of a sheep or goat, and of a small animal of the size of a rabbit, and an incisor of a horse, to judge from the sketch. No implement or other object of human manufacture was found. The coal and a large piece of gritstone, which was turned up elsewhere in the excavation, must have been brought from a distance, as neither material is found in the immediate vicinity of this barrow. The deposit of burnt bones was evidently placed between the rocks for protection ; in the earlier excavation several of the interments were found to occupy similar recesses in the rocky floor of the cairn. The space in question might easily have been converted into a cist, but no attempt seems to have been made to do this."

Mr. Read ventured to question the utility of such communications as the foregoing, in which no plans of the excavations or even of the district were produced to the meeting, and such aids are the more necessary when the relics are scarce. The account left him of opinion that these barrows had in some cases not been thoroughly explored. The absence of plans and sections, therefore, was not only an error in itself, but would effectually prevent proper exploration afterwards. He strongly deprecated the opening of barrows by any but competent explorers. Incompetence destroyed the evidence.

Thanks were ordered to be returned for these communications.