Barrow Clump - more exciting finds in the second season!

on Friday, 02 August 2013. Posted in Archaeology

A couple of weeks ago, the archaeology team visited the Operation Nightingale excavations at Barrow Clump. This is the second season of excavations on this Scheduled Monument. I’m going to talk about our site visit, but if you would like to know more about Operation Nightingale generally or the Barrow Clump excavation specifically, there is more information here:

This excavation is being undertaken because the barrow (which is one of a large cemetery of Bronze Age barrows) is being badly damaged by badgers. Previous excavations had revealed that, in addition to Bronze Age remains, the site had an Anglo-Saxon cemetery that included some high status burials. The excavations have Scheduled Monument Consent, which means that only the specifically agreed works can take place. The barrow is still scheduled and so unauthorised works, including metal detecting, is illegal.

The team visited on a beautiful, sunny day. The first thing we were shown was the earlier ring ditch that is inside (and covered by) the later Bronze Age barrow.

This trench also contained a section of the ditch for the Bronze Age barrow, but that section was not in very good shape. This was due to a combination of badger damage and a World War 2 grenade that the UXO specialist had been unable to remove (and so had been exploded in situ)!

There was a less disturbed section of the ditch that had been excavated further to the north. This section shows the orginal profile of the ditch, with the initial stabilisation changing it from a U-shaped to a more V-shaped profile.

Other trenches that had been opened showed the badger damage was very extensive. This had included areas of the Saxon cemetery, with parts of the skeletons being removed by the burrows.

When we were on our visit, there were four burials in the process of being recorded and lifted. The burial with the grid over the legs has lost part of its skull to a badger burrow.

The burials in this part of the site had a number of grave goods found with them. These took the form of both jewellery and weapons. Pictured here are a small brooch, a shield boss and a spear head. The excavations last year recovered other high status artefacts.


It is clear from the finds that the Anglo-Saxon cemetery contains a number of warrior burials as well as high status female burials. Twenty-two burials have been excavated this year. There is also the Bronze Age barrow, an earlier ring ditch and a Neolithic pit, so this site has been important for many thousands of years! There will be one more season of excavation next year, assuming that funding can be found, to complete the excavations and record the site to ensure that further badger damage will not destroy evidence unique to this site. We’re looking forward to visiting the site again next year!

Clare King
Assistant County Archaeologist

If you are interested in the Saxon warriors, you might be interested in the Wiltshire at War day that the History Centre is running on Saturday 28th September. There is a Facebook event at!/events/174701309364069/?fref=ts or keep an eye on this blog and our website.



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