The child burial on bark matting with grave goods. © Phoenix Consulting Archaeology
Archaeologists investigating a quarry site near Peterborough have unearthed the 3,500-year-old remains of a baby in a Bronze Age burial mound.
Phoenix Consulting Archaeology have been conducting routine investigations into the site at Bardon Aggregates Pode Hole gravel quarry near Thorney for the last eight years, amassing a vast array of valuable evidence about the community that once occupied the site, ranging from the Neolithic era through to the early Iron Age.
“In that time we have found a considerable amount of evidence relating to the economic aspects of the past, including Bronze Age field systems, droveways, stock enclosures and animal watering holes over an area of in excess of 100 acres,” explained the lead archaeologist on the project, Dr Andy Richmond. “But, up until recently, we have found very little relating to the actual people that carved out that landscape.”
The baby, believed to be under a year old and possibly a stillborn birth, is the most dramatic discovery on the site, which only two months ago yielded a well preserved skeleton of a Bronze Age man.
The child was lying in an adult grave lined with bark matting next to a complete pottery vessel. © Phoenix Consulting Archaeology
For the archaeologists, used to dealing with ancient human remains, this latest find was both dramatic and moving.
“It’s poignant and it makes one very aware of the mortality rate that existed all that time ago,” added Dr Richmond. “The body was placed with care and attention in the barrow and it is probable the young child was a relative of the round barrow’s original occupant.”
The child was discovered lying within the circuit of the main round barrow that measured over 25 metres across and was lined with bark matting next to a complete pottery vessel. It is possible the vessel once contained an offering of grain or wheat inside - further laboratory tests will try and confirm if this was the case.
To date it doesn’t look like the original occupant of the barrow is still there, which could be due to it having been ploughed away over the years or alternatively, it may have been removed by earlier antiquarians who were notorious for investigating barrows for the goods they may have held.
Only two months ago the site yielded a well preserved skeleton of a Bronze Age man. © Phoenix Consulting Archaeology.
Despite the lack of extensive human remains at the site archaeologists are now building up a picture of what was once a very desirable location for a Bronze Age settlement.
Perched as it is on the Fen Edge, the site would have once boasted valuable hunter gathering in the wetlands to the east and fertile agricultural land to the west.
“It’s giving us unique insights into the community: age structures, diet, even dental health, and we believe it’s one of the largest investigations of a Bronze Age landscape ever undertaken. We’re preserving the site through record,” added Dr Richmond.
After a period of research and analysis, which is being funded by Bardon Aggregates, it is hoped items found at the site will go to Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.