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Barrow / Cairn Cemetery


This barrow cemetery in the northeast corner of Broxa Forest is a little different to the average collection of Bronze Age bowl barrows. There are a few scattered around and mostly buried in the undergrowth, one worth looking at is Swarth Howe at SE970941 which would have had fine views across the valley of the East and West Syme. Now surrounded by trees and damaged it has a small 1 metre high raised mound in the middle with the rest of the low mound measuring about 16 metres across.
What I was really interested in this time were some monuments I had never seen before - Iron Age 'square' barrows. Dating from somewhere between 500BC and the coming of the Romans these square barrows are a bit of a rarity and many have been ploughed away but they seem to occur in a greater frequency in the area between the Humber and North Yorkshire than anywhere else in the country. Their design, as would be expected is a square or rectangular flat topped mound usually covering a burial in a pit, with flanking ditches, some also seem to have traces of a small bank outside the ditch and occasionally the burial is accompanied with rich grave goods such as dismantled carts or chariots.
Of the barrows in Broxa Forest, the four at SE967940, SE969936, SE971932 and SE966931 are very difficult to locate due to tree cover and large amounts of undergrowth, but the one at SE962942 is easy to find, quite well preserved, and survives to a height of about a metre and is about 10 metres across. Due to soil slipping into the 2 metre wide ditch it would be better described as 'squarish' rather than a true square and it has a couple of indentations in the top - the results of partial excavations in the past. Another barrow just to the east is about half the size and height and is quite heavily overgrown. These barrows seem to be a northwestern outpost of the Arras culture and there is some debate at the moment as to whether they were built by local tribes copying continental burial customs or by incomers from Europe who settled in the area.
Chris Collyer Posted by Chris Collyer
30th October 2003ce

Comments (1)

The odd thing about these square mounds in East Yorks. and the SE corner of North Yorks. is that the material culture of the area did not seem to differ from the rest of northern England until well into the Roman period. It was essentially Brigantean, with just a different burial culture! As Chris says, there is no real explanation for it. hotaire Posted by hotaire
3rd November 2009ce
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