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Sheep Down Long Barrow

Long Barrow


Details of the long barrow on Pastscape

Long barrow (SY 60438836) lies on Sheep Down, about 580 ft above OD, on the side of a long arable slope falling north-east from Black Down. On a bearing of 124x, it is 174 ft long, 70 ft wide at the north-west end and 88 ft at the south-east, where it rises to its maximum height of 6 ft. It was probably incorporated in a 'Celtic" field lay-out (SY68 NW 36); plough soil is piled against the south side and a lynchet meets the east end at right angles from the south. The whole has been heavily ploughed in recent times. (2,3) SY 60438835. Long barrow, generally as described by RCHM (2); overall length 54.0m. and maximum height 2.0m. Now under permanent grass but ploughed in the past, no visible evidence of side ditches remains. The lynchet at the E end has been ploughed out. Re-surveyed at 1:2500 on M.S.D. (4)
The long barrow on Sheep Down lies at the head of a dry valley which runs NE into the South Winterbourne valley. The site comprises a substantial rectangular mound, orientated NW-SE and 55m long. The mound tapers in width from the southeast end (34m) to the northwest end (26m). The mound is highest at the southeast (3m) and drops to 2m high at the northwest, with a step down roughly half way along the mound. The field has evidently been ploughed in the recent past, although it was not enclosed until 1863 (Winterbourne Steepleton Enclosure Award and Map, DRO Inclosure 81) (5).
The site was surveyed using differential GPS and EDM at a scale of 1: 500 as part of a survey of the long barrows on the South Dorset Ridgeway carried out by English Heritage and the Ridgeway Survey Group (6).
The geophysical surveys carried out by the EH Geophysics Team and the Ridgeway Survey Group on Sheep Down showed some rather surprising results (7). Both the magnetometry and the resistivity surveys failed to locate the presence of buried flanking ditches. The resistivity survey showed a high resistance, curvilinear response around the base of the barrow mound, indicating the presence of a retaining wall. There was also an area of increased resistance across the mound, with an area of high resistance towards the southeast end, perhaps indicating the presence of a collapsed stone chamber. The geophysical survey suggests that the long barrow on Sheep Down was originally a chambered long barrow, like the Grey Mare and Her Colts to the south (SY 58 NE 19). The absence of flanking ditches is problematic. It may be the result of the local geology: the barrow lies on an area of pebbly and sandy clay (Older Head, British Geological Survey, sheet 326). The mound material may have been obtained locally from the sand and clay deposits just to the north, where there are extensive quarries.
Chance Posted by Chance
18th May 2014ce

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