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17 April 2018
Untouched Bronze Age barrow discovered in Cornwall

An Archaeologist with the Australian National University has discovered a prehistoric Bronze Age burial mound on a hill in Cornwall overlooking the English Channel. The barrow dates to around 2,000 BCE and was found by chance when Doctor Catherine Frieman, conducting geophysical surveys of a known site outside the village of Looe, was approached by a farmer about a possible site in a neighbouring field: "He told us about a 'lump' on his land and that nobody knew what it was, so he asked us to take a look at it. So we ran our equipment over a 1,600 metre square area and sure enough we found a quite obvious circular ditch about 15 metres across with a single entrance pointing southeast and a bunch of pits in the middle. We said 'oh my god - that's definitely a barrow'."
     Doctor Frieman and her team have the first two weeks of April in which to excavate: "We want to examine the negative features that look like pits. They may be for holding up posts of a timber structure inside the ditch, or they could be pits that have small cremations in them - something you do find in Cornish barrows. Cremated human remains in pottery in pits can tell us all sorts of things about the people who were there."
     Doctor Frieman says ancient barrows in the UK are usually burial sites, although in Cornwall they can vary: "We just don't know what we'll find until we start digging. In Cornwall, human remains are only found in about half of the barrows that have been excavated, and not very many have been excavated compared to other parts of Britain."
     Stone tools such as flint knives and ground stone axes have been recovered from nearby Cornish barrows, but gold objects and ornaments of exotic material were also occasionally deposited in them: "We think these coastal waters were really important for the movement of metals in the Bronze Age. Tin is a famous Cornish resource and Cornish Tin is really important to the western European Bronze Age," Doctor Frieman adds.
     Doctor Frieman's work overturns the accepted belief that Cornish barrows don't have ditches. Of the barrow surveys involving her team, she says 90 percent have ditches.

Edited from The Conversation (1 April 2018)

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