Dorset in the Bronze Age

An update from our archaeology team

Dorset is blessed with rich archaeological heritage, as we have discovered on the VIP site.  Our archaeology experts, Oxford Archaeology, have made even more discoveries since our last newsletter.

In April, we completed the excavation of a rectangular enclosure measuring 64m by 33m. Artefacts discovered in the series of ditches that define the enclosure have enabled us to date it to the Bronze Age and suggest it was associated with farming rather than human settlement.

On a different part of the site we found a cremation cemetery with a mix of human remains – some stored in urns, others buried in the ground.  We’ve not fully assessed these findings, but early signs indicate that these also date from the Bronze Age.  We will be using radiocarbon dating to confirm or refine this belief.

The cremations are not directly associated with any of the barrows in the surrounding landscape.  This variation between the burials in the barrows and the cremations indicates a social hierarchy within Bronze Age society.  As we do further research, we’re hoping to look into the comparative timescales between the various barrows and the cremations.

Although we have no evidence for settlement on this site, we have now found seven complete Bronze Age pots inserted vertically into the ground.  This is a phenomenon known as Pot Setting.  It is known across England but is most common in the South West (particularly in Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset).  The function of these pots is not fully understood, but they are often found close to Bronze Age settlements and we suspect they were used for storage. We are continuing our excavation work, and will provide a further update of our findings in the next newsletter.

We know many of you are keen to know when you will be able to see the finds from on site.  Before we can share these, our team of experts together with Historic England and the County Archaeologist have to thoroughly analyse and record everything we discover.

Once we have completed all these processes, we will be able to share the findings from site.  Please continue to visit this website to hear about the latest updates.

Key facts (as of September 2020):

  • 12 barrows
  • 312 Neolithic and Bronze Age pits
  • 21 Archaeologists on site
  • 3623 Archaeologist days worked
  • 6000 year old artefact – Early Neolithic from 4000BC
  • 902 environmental soil samples