Though Dr. Stukeley has given an engraving of this tumulus, under the title of BUSH BARROW, it does not appear that he ever attempted to open it. It was formerly fenced round and planted with trees, and its exterior at present bears a very rough appearance from being covered with furze and heath. The first attempts made by Mr. Cunnington on this barrow proved unsuccessful, as also those of some farmers, who tried their skill in digging into it. Our researches were renewed in September, 1808, and we were amply repaid for our perseverance and former disappointment. On reaching the floor of the barrow, we discovered the skeleton of a stout and tall man lying from south to north: the extreme length of his thigh bone was 20 inches. About 18 inches south of the head, we found several brass rivets intermixed with wood, and some thin bits of brass nearly decomposed. These articles covered a space of 19, inches or more ; it is probable, therefore, that they were the mouldered remains of a shield. Near the shoulders lay the fine celt* TUMULI PLATE XXVI No. 1, the lower end of which owes its great preservation to having been originally inserted within a handle of wood. Near the right arm was a large dagger of brass, and a spear-head of the same metal, full thirteen inches long, and the largest we have ever found, though not so neat in its pattern as some others of an inferior size which have been engraved in our work. These were accompanied by a curious article of gold, which I conceive had originally decorated the case of the dagger, TUMULI PLATE XXVII, NO.I . The handle of wood belonging to this instrument, No. 2, exceeds any thing we have yet seen, both in design and execution, and could not be surpassed (if indeed equalled) by the most able workman of modern times. By the annexed engraving, you will immediately recognize the British zigzag, or the modern Vandyke pattern, which was formed with a labour and exactness almost unaccountable, by thousands of gold rivets, smaller than the smallest pin. The head of the handle, though exhibiting no variety of pattern, was also formed by the same kind of studding. So very minute, indeed, were these pins, that our labourers had thrown out thousands of them with their shovel, and scattered them in every direction, before, by the necessary aid of a magnifying glass, we could discover what they were; but fortunately enough remained attached to the wood to enable us to develop the pattern. Beneath the fingers of the right hand lay a lancehead of brass, but so much corroded that it broke to pieces on moving. Immediately over the breast of the skeleton was a large plate of gold, TUMULI PLATE XXVI, in the form of a lozenge, and measuring 7 inches by 6. It was fixed to a thin piece of wood, over the edges of which the gold was lapped: it is perforated at top and bottom, for the purpose, probably, of fastening it to the dress as a breast-plate. The even surface of this noble ornament is relieved by indented lines, checques, and zigzags, following the shape of the outline, and forming lozenge within lozenge, diminishing gradually towards the centre. We next discovered, on the right side of the skeleton, a very curious perforated stone, some wrought articles of bone, many small rings of the same material, and another article of gold PLATE XXVII, No. 3,4, 5 . The stone is made out of a fossil mass of tubularia, and polished ; rather of an egg form, or as a farmer who was present, observed, resembling the top of a large gimlet. It had a wooden handle, which was fixed into the perforation in the centre, and encircled by a neat ornament of brass, part of which still adheres to the stone. As this stone bears no marks of wear or attrition, I can hardly consider it to have been used as a domestic implement, and from the circumstance of its being composed of a mass of seaworms, or little serpents, I think we may not be too fanciful in considering it an article of consequence. We know, by history, that much importance was attached by the ancients to the serpent, and I have before had occasion to mention the veneration with which the glain nadroeth was esteemed by the Britons ; and my classical readers will recollect the fanciful story related by Pliny on this subject, who says, that the Druid's egg was formed by the scum of a vast multitude of serpents twisted and conjured up together. This stone, therefore, which contains a mass of serpularia, or little serpents, might have been held in great veneration by the Britons, and considered of sufficient importance to merit a place amongst the many rich and valuable relicks deposited in this tumulus with the body of the deceased.
William Cunnington, Manuscript Letters, Vol. 10, p. 9-13
Posted by Chance
2nd June 2010ce
Edited 2nd June 2010ce