Books, Prehistory, Ten Years' Digging 1860

 Haddon Field Calver Low

Ten Years' Digging 1860 is in Ten Years' Digging.

Books, Prehistory, Ten Years' Digging 1860, Haddon Field

On the 20th of August, after repeated disappointments from the unusual wetness of the summer, we opened a barrow [Haddon Field Barrow [Map]] on Haddon Field, near Bakewell; for access to which we were indebted to the kindness of the Rev, Frederick, and Lady Adeliza Norman, who also attended during the opening. The mound was of a regular convex form, about 16 yards diameter and not more than 4 feet high. A cutting through the centre passed downwards through about 12 inches of earth, succeeded by large limestones disposed without regularity or any apparent design, although their removal disclosed the only interment that was found: this, owing to a natural rise in the land about the middle of the barrow, was not more than 2 feet 6 inches from the surface. The skeleton lay on its left side in the usual contracted attitude, upon a thin bed of charred wood strewed on the natural level of the land a few inches only above the rock; the head pointed west south-west; the elbows were bent so as to allow the hands to be brought in front of the face; and near the lower part of the back was a small earthen drinking cup, 6½ inches high, very neatly ornamented with a vandyked pattern; close beneath which were three useful implements, an arrow head of flint that had acquired an opaque grey tint from partial calcination, a mesh rule for netting or else a potter's modelling tool, 6¼ inches long, rounded at the ends, cut from a horn of the red deer, and a very small brazen awl, which, when found, showed slight but distinct traces of its wooden handle. These objects would seem more appropriately to have accompanied a female than a male corpse, yet the size and general appearance of the bones indicate the latter as the sex of the deceased. The measurements of the long bones are -

Femur 18½in

Tibia 14¼in

Humerus 13in

The skull (see No. 237 of the list) is that of a man of upwards of forty years of age; it is a characteristic example of the ancient British type, and being more fully described in the list, calls for no further remark in this place than to observe that it possesses a peculiar flattening of the hinder part, extending from the upper edge of the occipital bone to those of the parietals adjoining the lamdoidal suture, a feature by no means uncommon in crania from barrows of the same remote antiquity, and which may be attributed to some prevailing method of nursing during infancy.

One or two teeth of animals and the least possible trace of rats' bones, with one small bit of primitive earthenware, were found in the digging, but no indication of other interments could be seen, although much of the centre of the mound was cut away in the hope of making some further discovery.

Books, Prehistory, Ten Years' Digging 1860, Calver Low

Having been informed, on the 30th of August, that some skeletons had been discovered the day before, by men baring the rock preparatory to quarrying it, at the verge of the cliff overlooking the limekilns at Calver Low [Map], I immediately went to the place and found that there had been five skeletons buried in a line side by side, a few feet apart, in graves sunk down to the rock which is there about two feet below the turf. The bodies were all extended at length with the heads to the west, so as not merely to admit of the corpses facing the east, as is the Christian custom of burial yet observed, but in this case also to face the village, and the pleasant valley extending towards Baslow - either motive may have prompted the arrangement, as there is reason to believe the interments to be of the Anglo-Saxon period, although it was suggested at the time, in one of the local papers, that they were remains of some who perished during the ravages of the plague at Eyam in 1666.

In returning to the narrative, it will be best to describe the several skeletons, numbering from the north, promising that the legs of all had been cut away, owing to their being so near the border of the cliff, which descends for a considerable distance almost perpendicularly, having long been quarried for lime burning.

Note 1. - A young person with very slender bones, the femur 17½ inches long, undisturbed with the exception of the skull, which had been broken and robbed of the teeth previous to our visit; a small bit of coarse red pottery was picked up amongst the earth near the bones.

Note 2.- Removed before our arrival, but from the few bones preserved, it appears that the person was older than the first, although the femur measures 16½ inches only - the skull thin, a good deal decayed and very imperfect.

Note 3. - Removed - the skull very perfect when found, since despoiled of the whole of the facial bones. The calvarium and lower jaw have been recovered. The former presents, when viewed from above, an oval outline with a very full occipital protuberance; the latter is well formed, and the state of the teeth indicates an early adult age. Imperfection in the thigh bones prevents measurement, they do not however appear to have been very long. A small iron knife, of the common Saxon shape, lay upon the pelvis of this skeleton, and has imparted a ferruginous tinge to the bone from contact during oxidyzation. It is the only instrument found with any of the interments, and alone furnishes a clue to their date.

Note 4. - With the exception of the legs, was quite undisturbed, as it lay beneath a wall on the extreme edge of the hill. By working on the other side of this fence, the skull was extracted in such a state as to be capable of restoration; it is oval, platycephalic, and like the other three - that of a young individual whose thigh bones, imperfect at each end, are large and much stronger than the appearance of the head would lead one to expect The skull is very much distorted by pressure, also producing fracture, posthumously applied to the left side of the frontal bone, most likely from stone filling the grave, as no care had in any instance been taken to protect the bodies from the overlying weight.

Note 5. - This, the most southern of the row, was entirely removed, most of the bones having been thrown down the precipice before attention was excited by a recurrence of the skeletons.

There are some indications of a tumulus in the field a few yards further back from the wall, which, if opened might disclose some- thing to substantiate the inference drawn from the presence of the iron Knife with one of the skeletons, which, however, we think is alone sufficient to determine the Saxon origin of the cemetery.

Books, Prehistory, Ten Years' Digging 1860 Saltby Heath

By the invitation of the Rev. F. Norman, the writer went, on the 21st of September, to assist at the opening of two large barrows, situated on what was formerly called Saltby Heath, now an enclosed and cultivated tract of breezy upland, a few miles from Belvoir Castle. Near them is a long earthwork, consisting of a wide ditch running parallel with a vallum formed of the earth excavated from it, called King Lud's Intrenchment, which with another similar work in the immediate vicinity, named Foulding Dyke, and the two barrows in question, are laid down in a plan, engraved on plate 53, of vol. i, of Nichols' Leicestershire, page 305.

The first opened mound is that nearest the intrenchment on the plan: since Nichols' time it had been planted, and after having been overshadowed by half-a-century's growth of larch, was again exposed to view by the timber being felled; it measures at least 25 yards across, and has an actual elevation of 5 feet, but, from earth having been collected for its formation from round the base, it seems much higher. Soon after removing the turf, we found pieces of a very large and thick urn of coarse Celtic pottery, burnt to a brown colour outside, and black within, and having a very simply ornamented border, the pattern consisting merely of diagonal lines, intersecting in opposite directions at wide intervals. Shortly after, we observed the disconnected bones of a human skeleton of full growth, those of a dog, and a few of other animals, all which had clearly been disturbed by planting, though nothing seemed to have been taken away from the spot. After digging through sandy earth, to the depth of 5 feet without further discovery, we arrived at the natural surface here, in the centre of the barrow, burnt and blackened by the action of a large fire, ample evidence of which still remained in masses of charred oak, the grain of the wood perfectly retaining its specific character. Just before touching this layer of charcoal, we found the tarsal bone of an ox, slightly tinged with red from contact with the burnt earth that had been thrown upon the hot embers. Although the area covered by the ashes was fully cleared, no portion of calcined bone or other indication of interment was found in this part of the mound, whence the conclusion, that the fire was kindled either to dress the funeral feast, or to bake the sepulchral vessel that accompanied the unburnt remains found at the summit; or else, as is equally probable, to serve both purposes. The hunter chief, who, with one of his dogs, was deposited high up in this considerable mound, was interred in accordance with a previously observed custom, not unusual in cases where large tumuli of earth have been raised in localities where stone is either scarce or not easily collected. Barrows of this class rarely repay the labour expended in opening them, and are most commonly found in comparatively low situations.

The other barrow was upwards of 30 yards in diameter, but the height was about the same as that of the former. We were not so fortunate as to discover any interment in it; nothing but a few slender animal bones occurring at intervals in the progress of digging through the dense mass of sandy earth, of which, with the exception of a very few stones near the summit, it was entirely composed. On reaching the natural surface, in the centre, 5 feet below the top of the mound, we found that it was baked quite hard, and had assumed a black tint, changing to red lower down, from the effect of intense heat, but presenting a variation from what was observed in the other mound in the absence of charcoal. Now as this is a substance that resists decay so long as to be almost indestructible, it becomes evident that all remains of the fire must have been carefully swept up and removed before the task of raising the mound began, most likely with a view to their being deposited along with the calcined bones they had prepared, in some part of the barrow not examined by us, owing to lack of time for more thorough excavation.