The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Bush Barrow

Round Barrow(s)


Account of Bush Barrow made by Leslie V. Grinsell in which he reflects upon other known burials from the same period and attempts to draw together relevant sources. See below for an index of all referances included.
Apparently a large bowl-barrow, probably the most notable round barrow in Wessex for its grave-group.
In the early 18th century it was planted with thorn trees (Stukeley 1740, 46 and TABS XXXII, XXXIII).
The first investigation was on 11 July 1808, when Cunnington explored it but failed to locate the interment. Reluctant to be defeated by a barrow, he had another try in September that year.
The tree roots had not penetrated deep enough to interfere with the primary deposit as the mound (which is c. 120 feet in diameter) was then c. 11 feet high. 'Contrary to the more general practice we found on the floor of this Barrow the skeleton of a stout and tall man, lying from south to north'. (Most of the other skeletons he had excavated had their head to the N). The extreme length of the thighbone was 20.5 inches, indicating a man around 6 feet tall.
About 18 inches south of the head (which shows that the head was at the south) was a large quantity of bronze rivets intermixed with wood and some thin bits of bronze, these objects covering a space of 12 inches or more. Cunnington and Hoare interpreted this assemblage as the remains of a shield, but Coles (1962, 172) has stated that 'there seems no possible way in which these objects could be arranged to form a shield. The flat-headed rivets are so short and relatively thick, that they could not have been driven through any wood without splitting it'. This, together with the position of the remains above the head, and their diameter which is small for a shield but about right for a headpiece flattened by pressure from the soil above, makes it most probable that they are the surviving pieces of a helmet, 'perhaps utilising wooden plates as scales'. A possible parallel, from a Minoan chamber tomb at Ayios loannis near Knossos, also above the head of a fragmentary skeleton, is dated to c. 1450 B.C. (Hood 1956).
The interment has been reconstructed by Ashbee (I960, 77) on the assumption that it was in the extended posture. Cunnington's account provides no evidence of this; but parallels of Early Bronze Age chieftains' interments in Germany and Brittany suggest that this could well be the case. (S. Piggott 1965, 127, Fig. 67).
The disposition of the rest of the grave furnishings was:
Near the shoulders, a flanged axe of copper or bronze with impression of cloth on blade, and traces of wooden knee-shaft handle (Thomas 1966). Near the right arm, a large six-riveted copper dagger of Gerloffs Armorico-British A type with traces of wood on blade, and handle of wood inlaid with a zig-zag pattern formed by an immense number of minute gold pins in poinlille style, for which there are parallels in Armorica. Near this dagger was a small lozenge-shaped plate of sheet gold with incised ornament, which Cunnington thought may have belonged to the sheath of the dagger. Near the right arm was also a large bronze grooved dagger of Gerloff's Armorico-British B type. Beneath the fingers of the right hand was a 'lance head of brass, but so much corroded that it broke to pieces in taking out'.
On the breast was a large lozenge-shaped plate of sheet gold bearing incised ornament; it was originally 'fixed to a thin piece of wood over the edges of which the Gold was wrapped', and it is holed at the top and bottom corners for fastening to the dress as a breast plate. On the right side of the skeleton was a polished and perforated mace-head of fossil Stromaloporoid believed to
be from the area of Teignmouth in South Devon; around its hole are traces of a bronze ring with which it was attached to its shaft by a bronze pin. Near this mace-head were 3 cylindrical bone mounts of zig-zag form and two end-pieces of the same material, believed to be the fittings for either the shaft of the mace-head or some other baton of authority.
They resemble those from shaft grave Iota in Grave Circle B at Mycenae, in the National Archaeological Museum at Athens (8623-4) but not illustrated by Mylonas (1973); they accompanied a male adult skeleton with a bronze sword and are dated c. 1600/1550 B.C. Similar examples in gold were found in a dolmen at Kerlagat in the Morbihan (Le Rouzic 1931; Taylor 1978). These in turn might have been inspired from the Eastern Mediterranean. The gold belt hook was near the right arm. If the Aegean parallels are meaningful the date of the Bush Barrow burial could approximate to that of shaft grave Iota (c. 1600/1550 BC) rather than that of the bronze rivets which are too generalised for close dating in them-selves.

A letter from Hoare to Cunnington, dated June 1810, states that 'Bush Barrow should be completed and filled up'; it was evidently not properly filled in until at least a year and nine months after it was dug.
L. V. Grinsell, Stonehenge Barrow Groups (1979), page 30
Other referances in the above post made by Grinsell are listed as:-
Stukeley, W., 1740. Stonehenge: a Temple Restor'd to the British Druids.
Coles, J.M., 1962. 'European Bronze Age shields'. Proc. Prehist. Soc. 28, 1 56-90.
Hood, M..S.F., 1956. 'Another warrior-grave from Ayios loannis near Knossos.' Annual of British School in Athens. 51,81 -99.
Ashbee, Paul, 1960. The Bronze Age Round Barrow in Britain.
Piggott, S., 1965. Ancient Europe, Edinburgh.
Thomas, N. et at., 1966. 'Notes on some Early Bronze Age objects in Devices Museum'. W.A.M. 61, 1-8.
Mylonas, G.E., 1973. Grave Circle B at Mycenae (in Greek; English summary). Athens.
Le Rouzic. Z., 1931. Bijoux en Or decouverts dans les dolmens du Morbihan. Dijon.
Taylor, J.J., 1978. Bronze Age Goldwork of the British Isles. Cambridge.
Chance Posted by Chance
2nd June 2010ce

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to add a comment