Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine 1910 V36 Pages 311-317

Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine 1910 V36 Pages 311-317 is in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine 1910 V36.

Notes On Barrows [King's Play Hill Long Barrow [Map], King's Play Hill Round Barrow 1 [Map], King's Play Hill Round Barrow 2 [Map]] On King's Play Down, Heddington.1 By Maud E. Cunnington (age 40).

Note 1. The three barrows here described were opened by Mr. B. H. Cunnington and myself in August, 1907, by kind permission of Captain Spicer, of Spye Park and of his tenant, Mr. Peak-Garland.

King's Play Down rises in a steep ascent from the old Bath and London road to the edge of the chalk escarpment overlooking the village of Heddington. About half-way up the slope, and not in a very prominent or conspicuous position, is a long, low, rather flat barrow [King's Play Hill Long Barrow [Map]].1

Before excavation the mound measured 101ft. in length ; 47ft. In width at a point one third of its length from the east end, and 34ft in width at two-thirds of its length from the same end. The mound lies east-north-east and west-south-west. It increases in height for the first 23ft. from the east end, and then gradually tapers off towards the west.

The whole of this mound was thrown over with the exception of a shallow fringe on the northern side, a trench 24ft. wide being first cut down the entire length of the mound and the sides then thrown over into it.

Note 1. Described by the Bev. A. C. Smith as " An oblong low barrow, running to great length ; grass: not opened." — Antiq. of North Wiltshire, Section

Before excavation two saucer-like depressions were noticed on the south side of the mound, one 23ft, and the other 36ft. from the east end. A skeleton was discovered lying crouched on its left side immediately beneath the spot where the first depression had been noticed. The skeleton lay a little to the south of the central line of the barrow, 23ft. from the east end and 22in. below the surface. Thus, though not in any way in a central position, disregarding the local depression, it was at that point where the mound attained its greatest height. The skeleton lay east and west, with the head towards the east and facing the south. The hody must have been much contracted, the whole space occupied by the bones being only 3ft. 2in x 18in. The left elbow was bent and the hand clenched in front of the face ; the right arm was stretched out, the hand resting behind the knees, which were bent and drawn up towards the face.

The body had been laid on the turf without any excavation, and no relic of any description seems to have been placed with it. Four flint flakes were found among the bones, but their presence may have been quite accidental, and although the soil under and round the skeleton for some feet was sifted nothing was found in it.

For an irregular space of from 3ft. to 5ft. round about the skeleton the soil appeared to be composed of decayed turf and mould and was quite different from the material of the rest of the barrow. It seems not unlikely that the first step towards building the barrow had been made by piling up round the body the turf and mould which must have been taken from the ditch before the chalk of which the mound mainly consists could have been got at. A few specks of what may have been either decayed wood or charcoal were noticed in this mould, but not enough to suggest that there had been a fire on the spot.

It has been said that there were two depressions or slight hollows on the surface of the mound, and an interment having been found under the first' it was hoped and expected that another would be found under the second. No trace, however, could be found of a second interment, nor did the mound show any signs of having been disturbed at that or any other place.

The dark seam of the old surface turf was plainly visible under the whole area of the mound. The ground was picked over down to the undisturbed chalk in search of any cist, but with the ex- ception of two holes and a trench nothing was found. These two holes were 2ft. deep and 2ft. in diameter, one 15ft. and the other 30ft. from the east end, and both just to the north of the central line of the mound. The trench was 2ft. wide and 1ft. deep in the chalk ; it ran from side to side beneath the mound in a slightly oblique direction from north-east to south-west, ending abruptly on both sides at the outer edges of the mound, and 9ft. within its eastern end. Both the holes and the trench were filled with the same rubbly chalk of which the barrow was built, but in the first hole mixed with this there was some dark earth and a fragment of deer horn.1

Note 1. For holes under barrows see Archceologia, XLIL, p. 181, and British Barrows, p. 9.

The mound was built entirely of chalk rubble, apparently taken from the wide shallow ditch which extended along both sides of the mound, but which, as is usual in long barrows, was not carried round the ends. The ground having been thus lowered on either side the mound appeared higher than it really was, the greatest depth from the surface to the old turf line being only 26in.

Ten fragments of coarse pottery and fourteen flint flakes were found scattered through the mound, four of the flakes being among the bones.

The barrow seems to be undoubtedly a true long barrow of the simple unchambered class. The shape and orientation of the mound, the interment at the east end at the spot where the mound was highest, the absence of accompanying grave goods, the presence of a shallow ditch on the sides of the mound, the size of the bones and the pronounced character of the skull are all typical of Neolithic barrows ; while the crouched position of the skeleton and the mysterious holes under the mound seem to be equally characteristic of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows.1

Note 1. " The primary interments in the (unchambered long) barrows may be classed under two heads: ... skeletons of one, or at the most two bodies separately interred, or ... many bodies promiscuously piled together," the latter being much more usual than the former. Archceologia, XLIL,. p. 184. For crouched position in long and round barrows see Ibid, p. 189.

The Saxon Barrow

This is a small very low round barrow, not noticed by the Rev. A. C. Smith, or marked on the Ordnance Maps. It is situated 25 yards south-west of the bowl-shaped barrow on the summit of the hill1

The mound is 24ft. in diameter and 1ft. in height. Under the centre a large grave was found, 6ft. 7in. deep, 7½ft. long, 4ft. wide at the top, and 2½ft. wide at the bottom. The grave contained the remarkably well-preserved skeleton of a man extended at full length on its back, with feet to the east and head to the west, the left arm bent across the body, the right arm extended by the right side.

There were no relics or remains of any kind with the skeleton, with the exception of thirty-six iron nails which were found embedded in the chalk round it in such a manner as to make it practically certain that they had been used in a wooden coffin. All sign or trace of the wood had, however, disappeared, except a few shreds actually adhering to the nails themselves.

From the manner of interment and from the character of the skull it is probable that this barrow is of Saxon origin.

Note 1. See Rev. A. C. Smith's Map, Antiquities of the North Wiltshire Downs Section IV., A. vii., a. p. 62.

Barrow No. III

This mound is 175 yards south of the bowl-shaped barrow on the summit of the hill.1 It is close to the box hedge and close to the western side of the ancient bank and ditch, which here run up the hill.

The mound is not noticed by the Rev. A. C. Smith, nor is it marked on the Ordnance Maps. The mound is not quite circular, being 22ft. in diameter from north to south, 18ft. from east to west, and 2 feet high in the centre. The whole mound was turned over but no trace of any interment could be found, and no grave or cist, although these were carefully searched for. A few small sherds of coarse pottery and one or two pieces of pottery that may be Romano-British were found in the surface mould. It is possible that the mound is not really a barrow.

Note 1. Rev. A. C. Smith's Map, p. 62, Section IV., A. vii., a.

Report on Skulls and Long Bones from Barrows On King's Play Down, Heddington. By J. Beddoe, M.D., F.R.S.

The Saxon skull is quite perfect, even to the styloid processes. It is that of a vigorous man apparently in the prime of life, and is very fine in both size and proportions. In the norma verticalis it is rather elliptic than oval in the lateralis it presents a slight postparietal flattening, but is generally well filled, rounded, and symmetrical. The face is long, the nasal bones arched, the forehead domed, the brows only moderately prominent.

The cranial capacity is much above the average. The following are the estimates thereof by several processes:-

Welcher, D. 1677 cubic cents

Pelletier 1613

Beddoe 1672

Welcker, C. 1586

Pearson, G. F. 1639

Pearson & Lee, mean of 3, 1552

Manouvrier (Flower) 1612 or 1624

Here the peripheral schemes all give results exceeding those of the diametral ones —the truth probably lies near the upper end of the scale — say about 1650 ; for the skull, being well rounded, must be capacious in proportion to its diameter ; and its weight (about 28 ounces including the mandible) is not excessive.

For the determination of the stature I have a left femur and a left humerus. The former yields, by my process [(3F. + 330 mm.)=stature] a height of 1794 mm. = 70·5 inches, the latter one of 1769 = 69·7 inches. Pearson's process for the two bones gives 1745 mm. = 68 - 7 inches. Manouvrier's 1734 = 68·7. Thurnam would have made the stature 70·4 inches, and Humphry 7016.1

The preservation of the thyroid cartilege, due to infiltration with lime from the chalk, is a markworthy circumstance.

Taking in conjunction the following facts: — 1, Burial in, or rather under, a barrow apparently raised expressly for the purpose ; 2, Absence of any accompanying objects ; 3, Orientation (head to west) ; I presume that this interment dates from about the middle of the 7th century. The skull-type is what I have been accustomed to call " high Saxon, and it is frequent among us at the present day.

Note 1. It is interesting that measurements of the skeleton taken before the bones were disturbed, from the crown of the skull to the heel bone, made 5ft. 9½in.

The other skull is as typically Neolithic as the former is Saxon or English, in narrowness it may even be said to transcend the type. It has unfortunately been smashed into about fifty pieces, and, though it has been well recon- structed, one cannot, of course, put much trust in the measurements. We may, however, be certain that it was very large and very long, extremely narrow, much higher than it was broad, very regular in profile-contour, and in the norma verticalis flatsided, and square anteriorly. It was probably opisthognathous, and certainly leptorrhine. The forehead was somewhat receding and the brows prominent: the lower occipital was very short. It belonged to an old man, but the teeth, smaller than those of the Saxon, and quite sound, were not very much ground down.

It is rather thin and light, weighing 22½ ounces with the mandible. Its capacity was certainly very large, probably greater than that of its Saxon companion and age-long neighbour, but by reason of its manifold fracture and reconstruction, it is not possible to give any estimate of much value. Mme Pelletier would probably put the capacity somewhere about 1715 c.c.m. ; Pearson's and Lee's plans anywhere from 1570 to 1744 ; Manouvrier (Flower) about 1680 ; my own computation would come out higher than any of these figures (1877), but I do not doubt that it is excessive. However, the dimensions are so great as to transcend the limits of any of Walcker's tables.

Though this old chieftain had so large a head, his stature was low, and not above the Neolithic average. The estimates of Thurnam, of myself, of Karl Pearson, and of Manouvrier, in this instance all agree within half-an-inch, the average of the four being 1635 cm 8 , or 64·35 inches. This femur is strongly contrasted with the Saxon one, not only in length but in robustness. Their respective circumferences are 85 and 97 millimeters, and the Neolithic one is somewhat pilastered, or its figure would be less than 85.1

Note 1. By kind permission of Captain Spicer the two skulls and the limb bones have been placed in the Museum at Devizes.