Hampshire Archaeology

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Buried in time – the Neolithic

Nutbane Longbarrow

A Neolithic longbarrow near Andover, built and used about 3,500 BC

The Neolithic, or New Stone Age, roughly 4,000 BC to 2,000 BC, is marked by the  arrival of the first farmers and also the first monuments to survive in our landscape. The causewayed enclosure, linear ‘cursus’ and circular henge are complemented by the chambered tomb or longbarrow.

Faith de Mallet Morgan on site at Nutbane

Excavations in progress

Nutbane longbarrow, Penton Grafton, first identified in 1955, was excavated in 1957 by Faith de Mallet Morgan for the Andover History Group. Ploughing had reduced its height to only 0.75m but the tapering mound could be measured at 51m in length. Two ditches flanked the mound. At the east end a mortuary structure contained four crouched burials and to the east of this was a forecourt enclosure. This area underwent several alterations before the mound was built and extended over it.

All four burials, revealed by excavation

All four burials, revealed by excavation

The first timber structure contained three burials, placed on a layer of light brushwood and covered with soil. Later, a larger structure was erected and a fenced enclosure added. A fourth burial was then inserted and a chalk cairn built over all the burials. Following this the mortuary enclosure was blocked by a post and log fence, digging of the ditches began and the enclosure was filled with soil. The primary mound was constructed around the mortuary enclosure and round, but not over, the forecourt structure, which was then burnt.

All of the bodies were buried in a crouched position, a common practice in the Neolithic. The later burial was male, about 5’5” tall, aged about 30 – 40 years. Two of the earlier burials were also adult males, one 5’9”, aged 30 – 40 years, the other 5’6” aged 40 – 50 years. The fourth skeleton was that of a child, aged 12 -13 years. No grave goods of pottery or stone were found, although it is possible that perishable items could have accompanied the burials. There was no evidence for fastenings for clothing or a shroud and no personal items such as beads.

It’s clear that only a few people in the social group were given the sort of burial found at Nutbane, and the monument can also be seen as a ‘tribal marker’.

Artist's impression of Nutbane being built

Artist’s impression of Nutbane being built

About 40 Neolithic long barrows are known in Hampshire, but very few have been excavated.

Some of the finds from Nutbane are displayed at the Andover Museum. A1981.13

The report is published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society for 1959.

A page from the dig diary

A page from the dig diary

 

Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, with help from Stacie Elliot.

 

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