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The Topography of some Barrow Cemeteries in Bronze Age Wessex

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2014

A.B. Woodward
Affiliation:
Birmingham University Field Archaeological Unit, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT
P.J. Woodward
Affiliation:
Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1XA

Abstract

Although the study of Early Bronze Age round barrows and cemeteries has flourished in recent years, detailed studies of the siting of barrows and cemeteries in relation to local topography and contemporary monuments are rare. This paper analyses the distribution of barrow cemeteries in relation to three major monumental complexes in Wessex: the South Dorset Ridgeway, Avebury, and Stonehenge. The analyses indicate that the location of barrows and cemeteries was strictly regulated. Although the specific pattern in each region is different, and closely related to the local topography of rivers and ridges, an underlying structural principle has been identified. This principle is that of circularity, and it is suggested that the various patterns of cemetery layout, involving curved settings and arcs, reflect the shape of the round barrows contained within them, the stake- and post-circles which lie buried beneath some of them, and the shape of the timber and stone monuments upon which they focus. This tradition of cemetery regulation appears to have continued to effect mortuary behaviour well into the Middle Bronze Age, alongside new systems of settlement and burial patterning which were developing in areas away from the ancient monumental foci. Finally, pointers towards future related research are outlined.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 1996

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