Hampshire Archaeology

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Buried in time – a Bronze Age cremation cemetery at Kalis Corner, Kimpton

Fifty years ago, in 1966, an excavation began at Kalis Corner, Kimpton, which proved to be of national importance.  The discovery owed much to the landowner, William Flambert, whose life-long interest in archaeology enabled him to identify the significance of part of a field in which the plough repeatedly snagged on compacted flints.  He invited the Andover Archaeological Society (AAS) to investigate.  The society had been set up in 1964 in response to the increasing destruction of sites as a result of the redevelopment of Andover as an ‘overspill’ town.

Max Dacre

Max Dacre lifting a fragmented cremation urn

 

In 1966 the AAS was directed by Max Dacre, who was originally given one month to complete investigations at Kalis Corner, before the autumn ploughing began.  Work took place at weekends using volunteers and it soon became clear that the site warranted more attention.  Deadlines were gradually extended until work was finally completed in 1970.  The careful scientific excavation earned the AAS recognition from the wider archaeological community and the results were published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, in 1981. 

The site became an oasis, stranded by ploughing and harvesting.

The site became an archaeological oasis, stranded by ploughing and harvesting.

At Kalis Corner the AAS discovered a Bronze Age cremation cemetery that was in continuous use for 1500 years.  In addition it was preceded by late Neolithic activity. The site is located only ten miles east of the Wessex Neolithic henge monuments of Woodhenge and Durrington Walls and to the south is the Harrow Way, an important prehistoric track-way linking Wessex and Kent. Nearby is the Kimpton barrow cemetery and it has been suggested that the two sites were part of a wider mortuary landscape during the Bronze Age (Stoodley 2013).

The grid

The ‘grid method’ was used to excavate the flint platform. Sheets of polythene cover the fragile pottery.

As already mentioned, the earliest activity on the site was Neolithic, centred on three large sarsen stones that may have occurred there naturally. Funerary activity began on the site in the early Bronze Age (2000 – 1500BC) when a number of cremations were placed in deep holes. This was followed by the erection of a circle of small sarsen stones within a flint platform, together with a pyre area where the cremations would have taken place, and the deposition of 22 urns covered by flint cairns (only six of which contained cremated remains).

Volunteers

Volunteers at work on the flint platform

It was in the Middle to Late Bronze Age (1500 – 600BC) that most activity occurred. A large platform of flints accumulated into which cremation burials were inserted. This platform was extended four times and different types and phases of burial were identified. For example Stoodley suggests that the presence or absence of flint cairns over burials through this period may reflect changing ‘fashions’ in burial practice. Five distinct clusters of burials could represent family groups, whilst the range of different ages and sexes represented and the scarcity of associated artefacts suggests an egalitarian community without a marked social hierarchy.

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Richard Warmington (left) whose detailed drawings (example below) made it possible to interpret the site.

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What is remarkable is the apparently continuous use of this site for such a long time: the use and reuse of pyre sites, the incineration and bone pulverisation techniques and the techniques of platform construction, were all consistent over the long time scale.

The archive and finds from Kalis Corner are in the care of the British Museum (museum no. 1988, 0505).  One ‘outlier’ pot of the same period is in on display in the Andover Museum.

References:

Dacre, M and Ellison, A (1981) A Bronze Age Urn Cemetery at Kimpton, Hampshire, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 47, 147-203

Stoodley, N (2013) The Archaeology of Andover The excavations of Andover Archaeological Society 1964-1989

Series by: Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone.

58

Happy crew – it’s tea break – Peggy Dacre with the pot.

 

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