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18 July 2010
Drought shows up south Oxfordshire Bronze Age graves

The hot dry weather is revealing some of Oxfordshire's Bronze Age history normally hidden from view. Hot air balloon pilot Michael Wolf was training another pilot near North Stoke (Oxfordshire, England) recently when they spotted several dark circles in a farmer's field. Wallinford reported that "In twelve years of ballooning, I have never seen anything as clear as this. It was like looking down on a map. I have flown over this field before, and never seen any marks. The hot weather must have created absolutely perfect conditions for seeing the marks. There were seven or eight big circles. It was absolutely fantastic."
     County archaeologist Paul Smith said: "There are very extensive areas of Bronze Age barrow cemeteries in that region, as well as some Roman remains. There is a whole mix of multi-period sites. There has not been a lot of excavation, but these sites periodically show up through crops. When it has been dry, the ditches once dug for round barrows hold more moisture than the surrounding area and when the rest of the field is ripening, the crops above the ditch are considerably greener. This period of the summer is the best time to see crop marks, but it may last for just a few days or a few weeks. Some summers are definitely better than others. This year a lot of sites are showing up."
     The barrows, constructed between 2,200 BCE and 1,000 BCE, would once have been mounds like the prehistoric Seven Barrows site on the Lambourn Downs south of Wantage, but over the centuries farming has obliterated all surface traces of them.

Source: Oxford Mail (13th July 2010)

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