Archaeological dig planned as metal detectorist discovers untouched Bronze Age burial mound

By Richard Moss | 14 March 2016

Dig Ventures is planning its next crowd-funded archaeological dig following a major Bronze Barrow discovery by an amateur archaeologist

a photo of a series of Bronze Age axe implements
Copper-alloy socketed chisel and fragment of a copper alloy dagger, found by metal detectorists at the site of the previously unknown Barrow, and dating to the Middle to Late Bronze Age© Stuart Noon
An untouched Bronze Age burial mound is a rare thing in the archaeological landscape of Britain, but in a sleepy corner of the North West a metal detectorist’s chance discovery is about to trigger a major dig that archaeologists hope will uncover more secrets of our pre-historic ancestors.

Archaeology crowdfunding platform, DigVentures, has launched a campaign to excavate the rare unexplored Bronze Age barrow in what will be the first scientific excavation of an undisturbed burial mound from the period in the region in over 50 years.

Preliminary investigations suggest the monument was in use for 1,500 years, beginning in the Late Neolithic period and ending around the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Examinations of the barrow also suggest a burial within it.

Describing barrows as “the best windows we have into the lives and deaths of Bronze Age Britons,” Brendon Wilkins, Archaeologist and Projects Director at DigVentures said, “discoveries such as these are the reason why archaeologists get out of bed in the morning.”

two rusty copper fragments
Fragment of a Bronze Age copper-alloy knife blade recovered by archaeologists© Stuart Noon
Archaeologists and antiquarians have been excavating barrows since the 19th century but this rare undisturbed site was found when community worker and amateur metal detectorist, Matthew Hepworth, found a Bronze Age knife and a chisel in a small field.

Both artefacts, which are remarkably well preserved, are rare for the area. Hepworth and his friend David Kierzek reported their finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme - the DCMS funded project encouraging the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales - allowing the important find to be excavated by an expert team.

Now, after securing the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund with £49,500, DigVentures is inviting anyone interested in discovering the past to crowdfund the project on their website.

In return, supporters become part of the dig team – through exclusive digital access to project data, and the chance to participate in the expedition, which takes place July 4 – 7 2016.

a photo of two Bronze rings
Copper-alloy ring likely to be part of a Bronze Age horse harness, recovered during initial exploration of the previously undiscovered Barrow© Stuart Noon
Through a ‘buy one give one’ scheme, each crowdfunder who joins the field team will also create a second place on the dig for a member of the local community.

Supporters, who will be given training by Dig ventures, will be undertaking with Bronze Age experts including Stuart Noon, PAS Finds Liaison Officer, and Dr Ben Roberts, who is Lecturer in Museum Studies at Durham University and was previously the Bronze Age curator at the British Museum.

A pop-up museum on Morecambe Promenade where excavations will be broadcast live will accompany the dig and act as an “archaeologist’s incident room” where finds will be brought and processed, and where the public can drop in to learn more.

a photo of a series of worked flints and stones
Bronze Age stone tools recovered by archaeologists from the previously undiscovered Barrow© Stuart Noon
a photo of bone fragments
Cremated bone, dating to the Bronze Age, and recovered by archaeologists from the previous undiscovered Barrow© Stuart Noon
A photo of a series of worked flints
Worked flint tools© Stuart Noon
a photo of a green hill
The landscape of the site of the discovery

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Archaeologists to excavate Lindisfarne in search of the elusive original monastery

Archaeologists reconstruct ancient Bronze Age trackway using socket axes

Metre-wide wheel found at Must Farm shows Bronze Age transport and technological ingenuity, say archaeologists

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