Park Farm Excavation 2018. Bronze Age Barrow?

Park Farm Barrow in 2013. Credit NFNPA

During an excavation at Park Farm in 2013 focusing on the World War II gun emplacement and potential Roman Temple aerial recording picked up a very clear crop mark of a potential barrow in one of the adjacent fields. You can read more about the work in 2013 here: Park Farm Heavy AA and Needs Ore ALG

The site had been picked up on 1999 google aerial images and is recorded in the Hampshire Historic Environment Record as a potential Barrow 63617. The 2013 aerial photos show a circular ditch with two parallel ditches cutting across the site. These parallel ditches are remnants of the old field boundary which can be seen in WWII aerial images, showing that the circular feature was not part of any WWII activity in the area, but from an earlier period.

Earlier this year (2018) volunteers from LoCATE undertook a small geophysical survey on the site of the potential barrow the results of which identified that there was interior disturbance within the ring ditch, which might support the presence of a primary burial or later disturbance from Antiquarians if indeed a Barrow site.

Following the results of the Geophysics and consideration of the New Forest National Park Archaeological Research Frameworks with particular reference to the Neolithic and Bronze Age Research Strategy it was decided to undertake a small excavation at the site with NFNPA volunteers and Bournemouth Archaeology.

The plan for the week long dig can be read in the following written scheme of investigation: Park Farm WSI

2018 Excavation

During September 2018 the New Forest National Park Authority ran a small community excavation as part of their ongoing Heritage Lottery Funded Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme on the Park Farm site.

We were elated to discover 3 cremation burial urns dating from the Bronze Age within the top of the circular ditch fill early in the excavation. This immediately answered our research questions about Bronze Age activity on the site, but as the excavation progressed the evidence also began to suggest that the site might have been an important place for even older human activity which Bronze Age settlers then adapted.

Careful excavation of the Bronze Age Cremation Urns and the immediate area by volunteers revealed that we were looking at 4 urns which had been inverted in the top of the barrows ditch fill and a small patch of cremated material adjacent to one of the urns. In terms of the Urns, one had a decorative band pattern on it that will help us to date them and another urn was made up of a smaller urn contained within a large urn. The urns were domestic pots and contain cremated human bone placed into small pits. So we know this site was a place of memorial for people in the New Forest around 3,000 years ago.

The excavation didn’t find any evidence of the barrow’s mound or any burial activity in the middle as one might have expected. The lack of evidence may have been the result of the barrow being ploughed out, or through it being destroyed by the later field boundary ditches that run through the middle of the feature and are also visible on the 1999 aerial image. The site was fully metal-detected as part of the archaeological investigation with the only finds being modern metal work in the topsoil. It is believed that one of the modern metal pieces found in the field boundary ditches was the anomaly originally picked up in the geophysical survey. Two sections were excavated through the field boundary ditches and dating evidence was found, which will help fix their place in the whole chronology of the site.

 Drone Footage of the Open Trenches. Helps set the site in the Landscape

As the excavation progressed and the 4 sections were cut through the ring ditch evidence of human activity below the level of the urns’ was found including two Neolithic flints from around 5,000 years ago, one of which probably would have been attached to a wooden shaft and used as a spear. Sections though the ditch also suggested a double ditch with at least 4 phases of re-cutting and filling before the Urns were dug into the latest ditch fill phase. Additional geophysical scans undertaken during the excavation and the aerial photos were revisited and suggest that the ring ditch might have had terminal points and entrances, which is leading us to believe that we might be looking at an earlier Neolithic monument that was then re-used in the Bronze Age.’

The urns were all block lifted and will now be scanned, recorded and then excavated with the soil and contents being analysed using scientific techniques in the lab to date and conserve them due to the poor state they are in after being buried for so long in acidic soil. It is hoped that they will ultimately be displayed in the New Forest.

The Interim Report for the Excavation can be found here: BUARC18212 Park Farm Interim Report

Post excavation has now started with a preliminary CT scan of the lifted Urns by Salisbury Hospital and the scans have been used to guide the micro excavation of the urns. The CT animations will also feature in the final film of the excavation along with commentary so we’ll let you know when this is released.

March 2019 Update Urn Excavation

Bournemouth University have sent the following progress report:

In general the urn excavation has been brilliant, and very interesting as well as surprising. All vessels are inverted, with Vessels 2 and 3 showing signs of truncation from above. The smallest Vessel  3 was very fragmented and contained cremated bone within and beneath (outside) the vessel itself. Vessel 2 was also very fragile and contained no cremated bone at all. The largest urn Vessel 1 is potentially the most interesting-it appears this one has not been truncated with the base found within the vessel itself probably due to collapse once interred. This indicates the vessel was not 100% filled with material and that a void would have existed. The soil samples have been processed and we are starting to work with the pottery sherds to assess the potential for reconstruction.  


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