Archaeologists chance upon crouched skeletons of prehistoric trio in Dorset grave

By Ben Miller | 18 August 2015

First Dorset burials from period of early iron usage in Britain found by archaeologists in Long Bredy

A photo of sections of archaeological bone from the Iron or Bronze Age found at Long Bredy in Dorset
© Martin Papworth
Archaeologists carrying out a watching brief on routine drainage and sewage works at an 18th century Dorset cottage have been forced to halt digging after the crouched skeletons of three young people from the Bronze or Iron Age were discovered in a trench.

Radiocarbon dating suggests the bodies were buried between 800 and 600 BC at Long Bredy, a village between Dorchester and Bridport where the National Trust has been carrying out maintenance. Deep layers of soil in the region mean archaeologists often only discover archaeology by accident.

A photo of a woman sitting by a church holding bits of archaeological bone from the Iron or Bronze Age found at Long Bredy in Dorset
National Trust archaeologist Nancy Grace with some of the finds© Martin Papworth
“There are no previous burials from that time in Dorset so it is a very significant find from a period with little evidence for the disposal of the dead,” says Martin Papworth, an archaeologist for the trust.

“It is important window into the past, the first clues of the people who lived in Dorset at that time.

“The archaeology of this field is now significant – although before the trench was put in there was nothing to show us that it had any archaeology at all.

“We removed some bone fragments for testing but the remainder of the three bodies we saw have remained in situ."

The trio are all thought to have been between 18 and 25 years old.

“The remains are of three teenage or young adults, probably crouched, all from around the period when the first iron was being used in this country. No other burials in Dorset have been identified from this time.

“In wider historical terms, this period is marked by the foundation of Rome and the ascendancy of the Ancient Greek city states.

“The Assyrian Empire was the super power conquering the kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. In this country, the politics, religion and lifestyle of the population are poorly understood.

“In the landscape there are few monuments from 2,800 years ago. It is long after the round burial mounds but before the great Dorset hillforts were being constructed.

“Somewhere buried nearby there should be evidence for the enclosed settlement of roundhouses where these young people once lived.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to discover Dorset's history in

Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve, Swanage
Current exhibition Exchange features maps, portraits, drawings, prints and a large book made from paper buried in the earth for ten months, compiled by artist Chris Drury and writer Kay Syrad following a year exploring sustainable living and farming on three Dorset farms.

Dorset County Museum, Dorchester
Housed in a beautiful, gothic-style building dating from 1884, these diverse collections include Roman mosaics, original Thomas Hardy manuscripts and fossilised dinosaur footprints.

Poole Museum
A 19th century quayside mill, extended in 2007, this centre features four floors of galleries, with displays and exhibitions ranging from archaeology to art and pirates to potteries.
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