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‘A Noble Group of Barrows’: Bush Barrow and the Normanton Down Early Bronze Age Cemetery Two Centuries On

  • Stuart Needham (a1), Andrew J Lawson (a2) and Ann Woodward (a3)

Two hundred years after William Cunnington and Sir Richard Colt Hoare’s excavations into Bronze Age barrows on Normanton Down, Wiltshire, we offer a fresh appraisal of this renowned cemetery, which lies within sight of Stonehenge. The paper focuses specifically on burial deposits of Early Bronze Age Period 3, seen as representing a dynastic succession that controlled access to Stonehenge for a while and presided over the ceremonies therein. Pre-eminent are the finds from the Bush Barrow grave group, now housed in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, and still without close parallel. Long-held notions that the skeleton was extended are dispelled; instead, the grave assemblage is reconstructed around the universal crouched inhumation rite of the period, giving rise to important new implications. Special attention is also given to two probable female graves nearby; essentially contemporary, their accompaniments contrast in a number of respects, pointing to very distinct affiliations. Our capacity to reinterpret such burial complexes is a tribute to the records made by the pioneer excavators.

Deux cents ans après les fouilles des tumulus de l’âge du bronze de Normanton Down, Wiltshire, effectuées par William Cunnington et Sir Richard Colt Hoare, nous offrons une nouvelle évaluation de ce cimetière renommé, qui se trouve en vue de Stonehenge. Cette communication se concentre spécifiquement sur les dépôts funéraires de l’âge du bronze ancien période 3, dont l’interprétation est qu’ils représentent une succession dynastique laquelle, pendant un certain temps, contrôla l’accès à Stonehenge et présida les cérémonies qui y avaient lieu. Parmi ces dépôts, les découvertes faites dans l’ensemble de sépultures du tumulus de Bush Barrow, qui se trouvent actuellement au Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, sont prééminentes et encore sans parallèle proche. Des idées de longue date, selon lesquelles le squelette aurait été inhumé en position allongée, sont écartées; à la place, l’ensemble funéraire est reconstruit autour du rite funéraire de l’inhumation en position contractée, qui était universel à l’époque, suscitant d’importantes nouvelles implications. On s’occupe tout particulièrement de deux sépultures féminines probables à proximité; essentiellement contemporaines, leur mobilier funéraire fait contraste à de nombreux égards, indiquant des affiliations très nettes. Notre capacité pour réinterpréter de tels complexes funéraires est due en grande partie aux notes rédigées par ces précurseurs des fouilles.

Zweihundert Jahre nach den Ausgrabungen der Hügelgräber aus der Bronzezeit in der Normanton Down, Grafschaft Wiltshire, die von William Cunnington und Sir Richard Colt Hoare durchgeführt wurden, präsentieren wir eine neue Bewertung dieses berühmten Gräberfeldes, das sich in Sichtweite von Stonehenge befindet. Dieser Bericht konzentriert sich insbesondere auf Grabbeilagen der 3. Periode der Frühen Bronzezeit, die von einer dynastischen Erbfolge gekennzeichnet war, die für eine Weile den Zugang nach Stonehenge kontrollierte und über die dortigen Zeremonien waltete. Besonders hervorstechend sind die Funde aus der Bush Barrow Gräbergruppe, die jetzt im Wiltshire Heritage Museum ausgestellt sind und immer noch ohne gleichen sind. Die lang-gehegte Auffassung daß dieses Skelett ausgestreckt begraben war wurde widerlegt; stattdessen wurden die Grabbeilagen um die, in dieser Periode allgemein üblichen Höckerbestattung, rekonstruktuiert, was wiederum neue Schlussfolgerungen nach sich zieht. Besondere Beachtung wird auch zweien, sich in der Nähe befindlichen, Frauengräbern gegeben; im wesentlichen zeitlich parallel, sind deren Beigaben in vieler Hinsicht verschieden, was auf eine deutlich andere Zugehörigkeit folgern lässt. Unsere Fähigkeit solche Bestattungsanlagen zu neu zu interpretieren ist ein Tribut für die Aufzeichnungen, die von den frühen Pionierausgräbern gemacht wurden.

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