A rare and “amazing” burial discovery dating back 4,000 years has been described as the most significant find on Dartmoor and has given archaeologists a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there.
The discovery of a bronze age granite cist, or grave, in 2011 in a peat bog on White Horse Hill revealed the first organic remains found on the moor and a hoard of about 150 beads.
As the National Park’s archaeologists levered off the lid they were shocked by what lay beneath.
The park’s chief archaeologist, Jane Marchand, said: “Much to our surprise we actually found an intact cremation deposit [human bones] which is actually a burial alongside a number of grave goods.
“What was so unusual was the survival of so many organic objects which you never usually get in a grave of this period, they’ve long since rotted away.”
Amongst the grave goods was an animal pelt, containing a delicate bracelet studded with tin beads, a textile fragment with detailed leather fringing and a woven bag [basket]. [Also, wooden ear studs and a flint flake].
BBC Inside Out SW tells the story of prehistoric Dartmoor burial discovery
Co-ordinated by Dartmoor National Park Authority with funding from English Heritage, the excavation was carried out at Whitehorse Hill in August 2011 revealing an internationally important collection of Early Bronze Age organic remains and artefacts. The discovery of these remains, which are over 4,000 years old, could prove to be one of the most important archaeological finds of the last 100 years.
BBC Inside Out SW producer Andrew Brown has worked with Dartmoor National Park Authority, the Wiltshire Conservation Service and other specialists to begin to piece together the story of this important discovery. The work has moved from the remote heights of northern Dartmoor to ‘state of the art’ laboratories where painstaking investigation is still taking place.
There is much still to be revealed but this unfolding and fascinating story will hopefully tell us much more about the lives of prehistoric people on Dartmoor and the landscape they lived in.
The unique coiled bag/basket [of lime bast*, with a 12 cm diameter lid and stitched with cow hair] has been specially cleaned:
* bast is the inner bark of the tree, retted in water to make fibres.
Mystery of the Moor [may only be available in the UK]