6,000-year-old ancient tombs discovered in Britain

June 9th, 2009 - 2:35 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 9 (ANI): A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist.

According to a report in Alpha Galileo, Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues were stunned and delighted to find the previously undiscovered Neolithic tombs, also known as long barrows at a site at Damerham, Hampshire.

Some artefacts, including fragments of pottery and flint and stone tools, have already been recovered and later in the summer a team of volunteers will make a systematic survey of the site, recovering and recording any artefacts that have been brought to the surface by ploughing.

Dr Wickstead said that further work would help to reveal more about the Neolithic era.

“We hope that scientific methods will allow us to record these sites before they are completely eroded”, she said.

“If we can excavate, we’ll be able to say a lot more about Neolithic people in that area and find out things like who was buried there, what kinds of lives they led, and what the environment was like six thousand years ago,” she added.

She said the find was particularly rare because it was close to Cranborne Chase, one of the most thoroughly researched prehistoric areas in Europe.

“I was really excited. It’s rare to find sites of this kind and the tombs are likely to be of national importance,” said Dr Wickstead.

“What’s really extraordinary is the location. It’s one of the most famous prehistoric landscapes, a mecca for prehistorians, and you would have thought the archaeological world would have gone over it with a fine tooth comb,” she added.

Work on the site is in its early stages, but Dr Wickstead said the tombs may contain human bones, while nearby there are cropmark traces of some larger circular enclosures, which may have been built at the same time as the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge, which is 15 miles away.

In Neolithic times, a ritual burial involved leaving a body out so the flesh would decay. Some of the bones were later put in a tomb, or relatives may even have kept some bones as a special talisman.

“We don’t know whether these sites contained chambers with bones in them. Some long barrows never contained bones at all, rather like cenotaphs today. We may also find that any chambers have been destroyed by ploughing - only by excavating could we find out for sure,” said Dr Wickstead. (ANI)

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