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17 August 2008
Grave robbers strike Bronze Age tomb in Sussex

Archaeologists excavating an enigmatic burial mound in Sussex (England) believe that grave robbers beat them to the prize of finding the remains of a Bronze Age chief.
     Racing against time to date a burial mound on the cliffs at Peacehaven Heights in East Sussex before it collapses into the sea, they have found evidence of human occupation of the site spanning back to 8,000 years BCE. But the prize was to find the remains of the warrior chief who was placed there in the Bronze Age, when the burial mound was built some 2000-3000 years ago.
     Many such mounds were built in the Bronze Age, often in high places, to mark the burial of a local chief. With him would have been placed grave goods such as beads, bone pins, pottery, even gold artefacts. However, the team found pottery and a clay pipe dating from the 1700-1800s, which suggests that robbers had excavated the mound then, said Susan Birks, who has led the effort by the Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society and the Mid Sussex Field Archaeological Team.
     Ms Birks said that although only one quarter of the mound has been excavated so far, it now looks likely the grave goods and remains were taken. However, she stressed that many other valuable finds have come to light. The presence of a small pits and possible post holes in the ground suggest there may have secondary cremations placed around the chief - a practice that may have been copied centuries later by the Romans.
     The excavations carried out over the past two weeks have also uncovered tools dating back to the Mesolithic period, some 8000 years ago, when the area may have been wooded and people were hunting animals, foraging for nuts and berries and making their camps in the area. A flint arrowhead was found from the late Neolithic period, some 5000 years ago, when the earliest farmers settled on the land, along with numerous pieces of pottery.
     The burial mound is perilously close to the edge of the cliff at Peacehaven Heights and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The pace of coastal erosion means it is likely that the barrow will be unsafe to access within the next few years and will probably disappear altogether within the next 25 years. Any finds will be donated to the Brighton & Hove Museum.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk (13 August 2008)

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