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15 August 2011
Prehistoric burial cist excavated on Dartmoor

Excavation has begun of a prehistoric burial cist, situated high up on Whitehorse Hill on northern Dartmoor (southwest England). The cist was discovered 10 years ago when its end stone fell out of the peat hag which had been concealing it. The cist is particularly unusual because of its situation within peat and its apparent isolation from other known archaeological sites. It is well over 100 years since a burial cist was excavated on Dartmoor.
     It is hoped that analysis of buried pollen, insects and charcoal within the peat will help establish detail of the contemporary surrounding landscape. Artefacts deposited as part of the burial ritual, such as pottery, beads and stone tools will add to the understanding of the time, five thousand years ago.
     Prehistoric cists are a particular kind of burial monument found on Dartmoor. They are chest like structures, usually sunk into the ground, with two long granite side slabs, two end slabs set between the sides, and the whole covered with a large slab. They are sometimes found within the remains of a burial cairn, and/or associated with a stone row. They contained both inhumations and cremations. The latter were usually placed in a type of pot known as a Beaker ware. Flint tools have also been found with the burials
     There are nearly 200 surviving cists on Dartmoor and over 90 percent of these have their long sides orientated northwest-southeast. The reason for this orientation is not clearly understood, but it was obviously of significance to the prehistoric grave builders. It is anticipated that publication of the findings will take place later in the year.

Heritage Daily (14 August 2011)

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