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Coate Mound

Round Barrow(s) (Destroyed)

Nearest Town:Swindon (3km WNW)
OS Ref (GB):   SU17768217 / Sheet: 173
Latitude:51° 32' 15.44" N
Longitude:   1° 44' 38.05" W

Added by Chance

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In 2006 Oxford Archaeology conducted field survey in the area immediately east of the Coate Mound, and around Days In Farm:

(Further work was conducted by Wessex Archaeology in 2007 essentially confirming the same broad archaeological narrative. However that does not appear to be available online: "Swindon Gateway, Swindon, Wiltshire: Integrated Archaeological Report (Phase 1 and 2), Wessex Archaeology 2007)

It is clear that the "southern lithics scatter" reported by OA has close correspondence to the Coate 'mound'.

This scatter is stated to be of regional significance by OA, and is understood to be Late Mesolithic (7000-4000bc) in date, albeit on limited typological grounds only.

The OA survey of 'Area 4' also found more limited evidence of Neolithic and Bronze age, albeit minimal stray abraded sherds, a couple of leaf arrows and a couple pf barbed/tanged arrows.

However OA and WA both interpret the area nearest the 'Coate Mound' as being indicative of Late Mesolithic activity, with Neolithic and Bronze Age sherds being found further away.

It would be very interesting to see the original sherds from the mound, as well as the flint assemblage. Are the ceramics domestic or funerary? Are they Neolithic? If so might they be part of a transitional Mesolithic-Neolithic assemblage?

The mound was apparently full of flint, including burnt flint - this and the shape is strongly suggestive of a Midden or Burnt Mound, rather than a Barrow.

A example of a comparable type of mound feature was excavated in the Reading Business Park by OA in 1995:

The earliest phases that could be potentially associated with the mound (essentially an accumulated pile of heat effected and shattered flint and small stones) there are Early Neolithic - the usage and build up continues well into the Bronze Age (as shown by C14). The earliest phase of the mound is not dated - the excavators interpreted the build up as essentially a latter prehistoric phenomena (eg early to middle bronze age), albeit it still a feature that accumulated over generations. They, as others do, suggest that the heating of stones is somehow connected to heating water/creating steam - for example, domestic water boiling, 'baths' and 'saunas', related to making fabrics.

If a mound accumulates through smaller scale activity - eg domestic water boiling, it might take a very long time to accumulate. More over, there are now many many examples and lines of evidence that clearly show prehistoric populations did not see midden piles as simply rubbish. The midden is somehow symbolic and representational of the people who made it - a tangible emblem of community and ancestry. Particularly Neolithic, but also some later monuments, knowingly incorporate earlier middens into there design and structure, as demonstrated at many sites now, and suspected at still many more.

At Reading the mound had very few worked flints - and early ceramics in nearby features. At Coate Mound, there appears to have been a much larger number of flints, alongside early ceramics.

Perhaps this mound is the result of a Neolithic midden on top/incorporating material from the immediate area, ie; somewhere which had been an 'Important Place' in the the Late Mesolithic. If so, it is surprising not to find more clear and definitive evidence of a Neolithic settlement very close by; eg with many features and sherds/flints of later Neolithic types (as at Reading) - This is especially so, given that a midden of this potential size must be either the result of 'concentrated industrial activity' or slow build-up over very many generations (or some combination of both).

There is evidence for this found by OA and WA between 2005-2007 - both reports clearly show Late Mesolithic artifacts (almost solely) in the immediate vicinity of the Coate Mound, and no traces of subsurface features at all near this location (in the areas sampled with numerous 30m by 2m trial trenches).

It is strongly suspected among many archaeologists that very early Neolithic and Transitional Mesolithic-Neolithic sites are very rarely marked by subsurface features (eg pits, ditches) and have extremely low presence of ceramics - instead they are more like per-agricultural lithic scatters of the Late Mesolithic

It is becoming ever more apparent that Mesolithic communities could aggregate at some sites in large numbers, and that these sites were repeatedly visited over many hundreds of years. This is clear eg, on the Salisbury Plain, at Thatcham, and many other sites across the UK

eg :

This raises an intriguing question about the Coate Mound/midden - could this be an indication of a very early Transitional Mesolithic-Neolithic community, or even a Late Mesolithic midden ?

This is particularly interesting because the Coate Mound/Late Mesolithic scatter is located near the middle of what might be called the 'Coate Monument Group' (ie- multiple late prehistoric round barrows, 1 extant stone circle and multiple other rows and standing stone features now destroyed, excavated remains of Neolithic-middle bronze age monumental linear- and monumental ring- ditches, and several natural spring sites...[all that is missing is a long barrow or two and a causeway enclosure])

Whether the excavated finds from the Coate Mound will ever be re-examined remains an open question. The significance of the adjacent Late Mesolithic 'important place' is non-the less clear in this wider context, again focus attention on the extant Coate Stone Circle, [ which is only 2 or 3 long-bow shots away across the fields].

For the sake of documentation, my feeling is that it is best/useful to classify the Coate Mound as a possible midden, at least as much as a possible barrow - although as some sites have shown, there can be a continuum between midden/long-barrow...
Either way it is potentially of very early date, and in my opinion less likely, to be Late-Neolithic or Bronze age.
Posted by GnK
27th September 2017ce

Details of site on Pastscape

Mound of uncertain date and function recorded near Coate Reservoir. Finds including flint flakes and cores, prehistoric pottery and animal bone were also recorded nearby.

"15/9/1903 we (Passmore and Chandler?) opened the mound above the creek, Coate Reservoir, just above where the little S.E. stream runs into it, above the quarry, and found nothing. The ground here is full of flint flakes, cores, pottery of a very early period and bones" (1).
Passmore's note appears to be that referred to by Crawford who depicts an area 150m. N-S and 50m. E-W on his 6", centred at SU 1776 8217. An undated annotation "worked flints" accompanies his banding of the area (2). (1,2)
There is no mound in this area which is now grassland and part of a Public Park. Passmore's collection of flints has not yet been adequately identified and catalogued by the Ashmolean Museum, if these are among them. Circumstantial evidence suggests a working floor. (3)

( 1) Externally held archive reference Passmore Mss. 63, Devizes Museum.
( 2) Annotated Record Map Pte. 6" (O.G.S. Crawford), Devizes Museum.
( 3) Field Investigators Comments F1 ANK 22-AUG-68
Chance Posted by Chance
21st March 2012ce