Sometimes the most exciting thing about an archaeological discovery is the very simple fact that, against all odds, it has survived. Archaeologists excavating the site of a burial mound in Cornwall, have described that exact feeling on discovering a 4,000 year old intact clay urn.
Standing about 30cm tall, the urn was found sealed, intact and in almost perfect condition just 25cm below the surface at Hendersick Barrow near Looe. Lead archaeologist Dr Catherine Frieman from the Australian National University said ‘It’s almost a miracle that a plough has never hit it’.
A tenant farmer on the National Trust land where the pot was found had suggested the archaeology team should investigate his field. Before excavation began, farmers in the area had told Dr Frieman that they remembered the site being ploughed as children and the team had low expectations of finding anything so well preserved.
The urn was found to contain identifiable fragments of cremated human bone, and Dr Frieman is optimistic that osteoarchaeologists may be able to tell whether the person was male or female, and even give a rough estimate of how old they were when they died.
‘It’s unusual enough that it made us smile’ she said. ‘You don’t often get intact jars from the Bronze Age’.
DigVentures certainly knows that feeling! During excavations at a Bronze Age burial mound in Lancashire, our team found not one, but TWO burial urns just a few inches below the surface. As if to prove the point about preservation, one was recovered completely intact, while the other had been smashed by a plough – and they were only a few metres apart.
During the Bronze Age, individuals were often cremated and buried in mounds (or ‘barrows’) containing several other people. While other Bronze Age burial mounds have been found in Cornwall, most of the ones so far investigated have been much further inland, making this discovery all the more unique unique. Other finds from the site include Bronze Age pottery, flint tools and two high-quality hammer stones.
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