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Friday, July 10, 2009

Crickley Hill in 'The Times'

My thanks to Kate Dumycz for sending me this piece from 'The Times':

'Evidence of cult activity on site - Archaeology

Times, The (London, England)-August 17, 1989
Author: Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent

A ritual landscape four thousand years old is gradually emerging from the Cotswold site of Crickley Hill. Noted as a fortified settlement both in the Neolithic and the Iron Age, the site has now yielded evidence of ceremonial and cult activities in the intervening period.

Crickley Hill, which lies south east of Cheltenham on a dramatic spur overlooking the Severn Valley, has already yielded evidence of ritual constructions in the later Neolithic around 2500 BC (The Times, July 29 1985). These included a small wooden enclosure which Dr Philip Dixon, who
has directed the excavations for the past 21 years, interprets as a nemeton, or shrine.

The current discoveries have been made in the same part of the site: the nemeton was overlain by a stone circle at the end of a "long mound", and it is this mound that has produced some of the present season's intriguing results.

"The Long Mound itself consists of a mass of finely sifted topsoil, three metres (10 feet) wide, nearly 100 metres long and originally about a metre high. There was a stone kerb along both sides, under some of the slabs of which butchered animal bones were laid," Dr Dixon said.

"This was merely the final stage: there were at least five phases of construction, and the whole mound was built over the neolithic trackway that led to the shrine."

Dr Dixon said that while there were as yet no absolute dates for the Long Mound complex, the feature was clearly substantially later than the Neolithic features, which were covered by a mature soil, and earlier than the first Iron Age occupation of around 600 BC, postholes from which were cut into the silts over the Long Mound phase.

A date in the mid second millennium BC, contemporary with the Wessex Bronze Age and the final constructions at Stonehenge, would be appropriate, Dr Dixon believes.

Another surprising discovery has been the setting within which the Long Mound was built and used: on the slope overlooking it, lines of pits were dug into the limestone bedrock, many with fragments of cremated human skulls or animal remains at the bottom.

Linking the pits were a series of cobbled platforms, scorched on their upper surfaces. So far at least three, and perhaps four, roughly parallel lines of pits have been excavated, oriented towards the circle at the western end of the Long Mound.

"Surrounding the whole of this part of the site we have uncovered a narrow trench, which seems to have been used solely for brushwood fires", Dr Dixon said.

"The Long Mound and its stone circle are invisible to anyone standing outside this trench, except for one place, and there we have found postholes suggesting that a fence or screen was erected.

"The combination of prominence and secrecy suggests Chieftain's magic: the nearest point from which the mound can be seen, a quarter of a mile across the valley, is Barrow Wake, the location of Bronze Age round barrows or burial mounds."

The central portion of the Long Mound remains unexcavated, but Dr Dixon hopes that the full sequence of construction and ritual activities will be elucidated in a future season of excavation.

Section: Home news
Record Number: 1012744375
(c) Times Newspapers Limited 1989, 2003'

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