Proposition 5

that process connections may have existed between settlement activity and disposal activity through prehistory.

The research has not systematically searched for evidence to support this proposition, as its focus has been sites with any human disposal, and such evidence as it has recorded has been incidental. Its nature nonetheless prompted the addition of this proposition, as the link appeared worth testing.

This hypothesis is approached with a test on the areas of settlement sites not holding disposals, given that the settlement sites with disposals can be covered under the next hypothesis. Section 6 provides the basis for testing the hypothesis, and offers some evidence from all periods. The number of sites on which the test is based is small, and the evidence could be supplemented by others' observations on settlement features such as pits and refuse deposits (for example Cunliffe 1992; Ellison and Drewett 1971; Field et al., 1964; Green 1961a & 1961b; Hayden and Cannon 1983; McOmish 1996; Needham and Stig Sorensen 1988; Piggott 1927; Reid 1896; Richards and Thomas 1984; Ross 1968; and Stebbing 1947).

Taking the present research first, areas, pits and ditches with domestic refuse resembling disposal site deposits occur on settlement sites across southern Britain in 3500-2500bc, although they are few in number. There are especially interesting features at 30 Crickley Hill, where in the second ditch phase an outer ditch was dug 50m beyond the inner ditch, and butchered animal bones placed under slabs at terminals. Inside the enclosure was a rectangular building. A well-trodden pathway led to a possible shrine in a natural hollow at the centre of the site. There were two clay troughs containing bone, antler, flint, Windmill Hill pottery, and capped by a stone layer. There was also a hearth. Possibly deliberate breakage of pottery and then its burial occurred 464 Bishops Cannings 81 on the Neolithic occupation area. 110 Bishopstone was a settlement not rich in pottery or food debris, except pit 357 which contained 153 sherds from at least 32 vessels, compared with 17 sherds from the rest of the Neolithic features, a most exceptional disproportion. These non-burial sites indicate that there were processes involving fire, special deposits of animal bone, special deposits of domestic refuse, movement in procession, deliberate breakage, and the digging of pits or scoops which must have held significance for the participants in the activity. Other non-burial (but not settlement sites) held other supporting evidence.

In 2500-14/1300bc there is much similar evidence at non-burial sites, few of which are settlements however. In the south west area, there is evidence on non-funerary monuments for animal deposits, grave goods without accompanying remains, pit activity of many types, burning and fires, burials of artefacts, mound layering, domestic refuse deposits, sprinkling of charcoal, sculptured effects and use of colour. At one site, 1391 Woodbury Common, there is elaborate ritual activity involving cairns, pits with pot and artefact burial, brushwood and grass fires, and in particular notably elaborate arrangements of coloured pebbles especially of bluestone, and other stones. The one settlement site holds funerary vessels without deposits.

In the south area, the sites without disposals do not include any settlements in the Gazetteer, but are monumental in nature (16 round barrows and a henge). The activity there resembled that described for the south west sites. In the south east area, the same kind of activity is repeated on sites without disposals, the one settlement example being 876 Dorchester-on-Thames XIII: although this showed no signs of occupation, its design and construction suggested a special purpose and paralleled that of some funerary monuments with its entrances and ditches.

In 14/1300-8/700bc the one site in the south west area with particular evidence is 1196 Trethellan Farm, a settlement with a disposal under a hut floor (see below) but with many unusual features elsewhere on the site. Section 6 has the full details, but activity included: practices resembling completion processes on abandonment, much activity of a repetitive nature (pit digging, levelling, paving, fires) focused on a midden-like area, and a small stone building much frequented but kept very clean and with an off-set entrance. In the south area the possible occupation site at 1675 Warmwell Quarry possesses some echoes of the last site, and the few other non-disposal sites noted hold features similar to those elsewhere: votive offerings, pit activity, and special burials of objects. In the south east there are no settlement sites falling into the category, although 906 Northdown (a hengiform monument) contained a large quarry pit on the outer edge of its ditch, sealed with a rich layer of domestic refuse including flint and stone artefacts and bronze items.

In 8/700-100bc in the south west area at 1480 Little Solsbury Hill Camp, in some of the deeper post-holes there were foundation deposits of sherds. A (?)hearth H3 was constructed with a seeming foundation deposit of bones of a young sheep or goat covering the toothed end of an antler comb embedded in clay mixed with earth, over the shaft of which a flat horizontal slab was placed. This was luted with clay to 4 flat stones set in a crude semi-circular clay sausage, 2 vertically set and 2 sloping and supported by clay. This elaborately constructed animal burial has an echo of the hearth burial of a human at 1196 Trethellan Farm. In the south area no settlements without disposals were recorded as possessing other features of note. In the south east area, there is similarly no record in the Gazetteer, but at a monumental site 135 Barrow C Churn Plain which had no disposal, there was a double pit with much wood ash, animal bone and a large amount of pottery.

In 100bc-AD43 no sites are recorded with features of interest in any of the three areas, and the period therefore cannot be tested.

Given that the hypothesis has been taken to apply to non-disposal settlement sites, and that the research has not included all such sites with this test in mind (focused as it is on site with human disposals), there is nonetheless some evidence to support the hypothesis for much of the period 3500bc-AD43, the lack being in the last period. If the next hypothesis can be better supported, then the probability will be that the former hypothesis may be assumed to hold, as included by the latter.

Table 26 demonstrates that settlement locations hold human remains through prehistory, much less in evidence over 3500-8/700bc, but with a very significant rise thereafter. The issue is whether any of those disposals follow in general form those in the open structured and open unstructured burial monuments through all periods.

The ten occupation sites with evidence of disposal span all three areas in 3500-2500bc (there being 129 disposal sites in all). They hold examples of cremation (including token deposits), inhumation (full and part bodies, and token parts) including bodies that had undergone excarnation, a wide age range where age is discernible, both sexes, and of contexts with special associated activity. Both small pits and large (?domestic storage) pits were used, as well as the open ground and formal graves. Both accompanied and unaccompanied depositions occur, with and without domestic refuse and animal material (some whole animals). Ritual activity is evident in the use of special bone parts (such as from the cranium and long bones) and bone manipulation, use of colour (sealing deposits in red clay), ditch terminal deposits, use of fire, and curation of domestic refuse. All of these features occur on the non-settlement disposal sites in the period.

There are 17 (of 1023) settlement sites with disposals in 2500-14/1300bc, spread across all areas. Some are cave dwellings, but the majority are settlements of varying sizes, and offer unambivalent examples of burial practice commonly met in the contemporary non-settlement sites: urned cremations, inhumations (whole and part), small cemetery groups, pit burials, ditch burials, all ages and sexes represented, with and without grave goods, and examples of ritual activity such as bone selection and placement, use of domestic refuse, and examples of attention to liminality. There are also two formal burials under hut floors (713 Litton Cheney 1/3a and 952 Litton Cheney Enclosure).

In 14/1300-8/700bc there are 13 such sites (of 282) spread across all areas. At 1196 Trethellan Farm and 1086 Cock Hill Enclosure, the most fully presented sites, there was evidence for both formal disposal activity and other apparent special activity and deposits. Elsewhere, there were cremations and inhumations, token and full, pit and ditch deposits of human remains and domestic refuse, urned cremations, examples of the full age range and both sexes, and deposits with and without grave goods. There were also special pit deposits without burials. It may just be an accident of the record, but remains of very young or foetal children seem to rise in profile in this set of sites in particular liminal settings, and the incidence of the more casual find of bone has increased. In their main characteristics, however, reference to special studies data shows that these settlement sites hold similar disposal characteristics to those of contemporary non-settlement disposal sites.

From around 8/700bc the proportion of sites holding burials and which are settlements increases dramatically from a 1-5% range to 63% (88/138) in 8/700-100bc, falling then to 39% (71/182) in 100bc-AD43, spread across all areas. The amount of available recorded evidence from those sites also increases. Since the balance of locations for disposals has reversed, any assumption that open disposal locations (structured or otherwise) are the benchmark for characteristics of disposal processes should be questioned. The settlement sites of the last two periods appear larger and more complex in themselves than earlier settlements, and the incidence of discovery of pit depositions increases. This is also the case with associated deposits of animal parts and domestic refuse, which rise. Infant burials (part or whole) increase in profile, and features of deposition practice such as the weighing down of the bodies with large stones are more in evidence. An informal scan of the open location disposal sites suggests less rich ritual activity there, and a continuation of simpler disposal processes and methods from earlier periods.

How can the impression be tested? If settlement sites holding disposals are compared with open sites with disposals for incidence of ritual activity and multiple phase rites (characteristics of more elaborate processes), the evidence supports the view that settlement sites did indeed more often hold the more complex disposal processes in the later periods. Using Codes 003-004 with 052-053 and comparing the results with those for 005-006/052-053, gives results shown in Table 9.4-8:

Settlement sites with disposals Open sites with disposals
Period All settlement sites with disposalsSites with multiple phase rites and/or rit. activity % All open sites with disposalsSites with multiple phase rites and/or rit. activity%
3500 106601206756
2500 17318100623623
800 88242756814
100 561120121119
All periods1844726157336923
Table 9.4-8: Comparison of settlement sites with open sites, in respect of multiple phase rites and ritual activity

Table 9.4-8 shows several interesting features. The first is the very high percentages that both site groups have in 3500-2500bc, and how similar they are. Then there is a drop for both of very considerable size in the next period, 2500-14/1300bc. Given that there are small numbers of settlement examples for the period, the percentages are nonetheless not very far apart. The third feature is the way in which the settlement sites maintain a steady profile of multiple phase/ritual activity over the period 1400bc-AD43, while the open disposal sites appear gradually to reduce in evidence for such features (a tendency starting earlier in 2500bc). Fourthly, the settlement sites from 2500bc appear to maintain a fairly steady presence of these characteristics, with slightly higher levels in the middle periods spanning 1400-100bc. These last points are very relevant to the general proposition concerning process connections between settlement activity and disposal activity through prehistory.

The hypothesis appears to be well supported by the evidence, full disposal activity appearing on settlement sites in every period, and the characteristics appearing very similar. The evidence goes further to suggest that it is the settlement that most consistently provides evidence for multiple phase rites and ritual activity through prehistory, suggesting some contextual support for proposition 5.

Table 356 shows how the deposition of domestic refuse within the monument structure and with the disposal runs in very close proportional parallel through prehistory in southern Britain. All areas follow the same general pattern of being higher either side of the period 2500-8/700bc, but vary among themselves within the individual periods, the south area generally falling in between the other two, which alternate in leading.

Within this pattern, are there differences between the settlement and open location disposal sites in the relative frequency of deposition? Given that the content of the domestic refuse deposits are frequently the same (sherds, animal bone, other decayed organic material, broken tools, and waste flint forming the most typical combinations), a significant difference in frequency might indicate one location being more favoured, and transfer activities being themselves less frequent or likely.

Settlement sites with disposalsOpen sites with disposals
PeriodAll settlement sites with disposals Domestic refuse in monument % All open sites with disposals Domestic refuse in monument%
All periods1847541157316110
Table 9.4-9: Comparison of settlement sites with open sites, in respect of domestic refuse deposits in monument structure
Settlement sites with disposals Open sites with disposals
Period All settlement sites with disposals Domestic refuse with disposal % All open sites with disposals Domestic refuse with disposal %
All periods 18474401573886
Table 9.4-10: Comparison of settlement sites with open sites, in respect of domestic refuse deposits with disposal

Several points emerge from comparing the different locations' process incidences. First, the settlement locations offer a far higher relative incidence of domestic refuse in both disposals and monuments than do the open site locations, with frequencies several (two to twelve) times greater through the five periods. Then on settlements the depositions of domestic refuse with disposals and monument are in similar incidence through prehistory, except in 2500-14/1300bc when the monument incidence drops to one quarter of the disposal deposition rate (6:24%). The reverse happens on open disposal sites in that period (8:2). This variation aside, on open disposal sites the deposition of domestic refuse with disposals and in monuments is similar, with slightly lower incidence rates in the monuments. The one other remarkable point is that the incidence on both settlement and open sites of deposition of domestic refuse in monuments is both low and very similar in 2500-14/1300bc (6:8).

These rates of incidence establish the settlement sites as more frequent foci for the use of domestic refuse in disposal processes than the open disposal sites, and also that both foci are in play more strongly in some periods than others. Since the settlements were the originators of domestic refuse, it has been important first to establish the profile of the use of this material on settlement disposal sites. The hypothesis itself seeks to test whether there is evidence for the movement of domestic refuse between one type of disposal site and another, between a midden (curated material) and types of disposal site, or between a settlement area (both curated and non-curated material) and a disposal site. This requires a review of sites that present coding does not permit, and therefore a brief Gazetteer survey is needed, restricted for the purpose of this exercise to the sites with domestic refuse.

A transfer process implies that the domestic refuse had been in another place, such as a midden, before being brought to the disposal site and that it had been deliberately collected to be set down again in its new location. There are some disposal sites built on an existing occupation area with domestic refuse already in situ. These are dealt with under the next hypothesis. The others divide into those where specific items appear to have been brought individually and destroyed on the spot, those where individual similar types of waste were deposited in groups, and the majority where material that was already a collection of the common refuse items was set down in the monument or with the disposal or both.

It is easy to establish that transfer processes took place, since the majority group are using middens of mixed refuse as their source, which means movement of material either from within the settlement or from outside depending on the midden location. The transfer movements themselves are the real focus of interest since they appear to have some complexity linked with primary and secondary deposition processes, and the movement of the human remains between different locations to final disposal. These combinations of movements appear possible from the two midden locations, accepting that both sources of domestic refuse might be used in the case of disposal locations:

Final disposal outside settlement
A Midden to outside primary (final) disposal site
B Midden to outside primary disposal site, primary disposal to outside secondary site
C Midden to inside primary disposal site, primary disposal to outside secondary site
Final disposal site inside settlement
D Midden to inside primary (final) disposal site
E Midden to inside primary disposal site, primary disposal to inside secondary site
F Midden to outside primary disposal site, primary disposal to inside secondary site
Table 9.4-11: Transfer of midden material from midden to disposal locations

These types may not be exclusive, but the point of their creation is to provide a framework to test whether the hypothesis is supported by the evidence. It may be difficult to trace the midden location from the evidence, but if sufficient clear examples of a few types can be found, then the hypothesis will be supported. The meaning of the processes will have to await discussion under later sections.

There are many examples of the apparent simple, single transfers of material (types A and D above) through all periods, with domestic refuse transferred into monuments and being set with disposals appearing in many forms. These range from deposits in pits, lenses of material in mounds, whole (sometimes alternating) layers in mounds, base layers on which disposals are set, platforms of domestic refuse into which disposals are placed, and selective placing of refuse types in the monument and with disposals (Section 6, ritual activity).

The evidence for double transfer processes (B and C transfers finishing at open sites, and E and F finishing at settlement sites) is harder to identify since it depends on recognising conditions of deposition that unambiguously imply two stages of transfer. One of these conditions might be the mixing of already decomposed, disarticulated or fragmented human remains with domestic refuse or similar compositions (such as refuse and rubble mixtures). This usually means that only uncremated bone can provide the evidence, a considerable restriction in some periods. Another condition might be the composted nature of the domestic refuse, where retention for some time in a midden will have brought the organic content to a (usually) dark, rich, sometimes greasy consistency, and the included material such as sherds and animal bone may have a worn look.

The review below has recorded unambiguous examples, and a few probable ones. Examples of types B/C occur in 3500-2500bc at causewayed enclosure sites in deliberate ditch deposits (for example at 55 Hambledon Hill, 73 Windmill Hill and 129 Abingdon Causewayed Enclosure), at long barrows in redeposited earth, domestic refuse and human skeletal material mixtures (e.g. 22 Hazleton II, 29 Frocester II, and 50 Tinkinswood), and at other sites. Examples of types E/F in the period might exist at 114 Ramsgate iii and 1337 Croyde.

In 2500-14/1300bc, examples of types B/C appear as deposits in the mound (at 289 Burrington 1, 300 Cheddar 3, 302 Cheddar 5, and 358 Naunton 2 for example), in shafts (726 Maumbury Rings, 741 Bumper's Lane Second Quarry), or in monument ditches (944 Ramsgate 1). There seems to be no example of types E/F, but the sample is small.

In 14/1300-8/700bc examples of type B/C appear at 298 Cheddar 2, 909 Shuart Farm A and 1110 Itford Hill Barrow (possibly a type C, as there was an urn cremation that matched with a sherd found previously at the settlement on Site 1088). types E/F appear at 313 Brean Down, 923 The Cop Round Barrow, 1086 Cock Hill Enclosure and 1519 Castle Hill.

In 8/700-100bc examples of types B/C are not numerous, comprising three barrows (Sites 1423, 1424, 1425 Bristol 2-4) and three open site middens. These last, however, include remarkable examples of the nature and scale of curation of midden material that could take place in the period, and instances of transfer and deposition of human skeletal material to such sites (1700 East Chisenbury, 1703 Potterne and 1704 Runnymede). They give examples of the extra-settlement resources of domestic refuse that might have been available, perhaps in every period, from which to supply settlement and monument disposal sites. They differ in scale when compared to the smaller settlement pit collections of human bone and refuse, but their content is similar, and in two cases is further enriched with bronze metal waste. Their respective intents may not be the same, however, and location may be a key determinant of purpose of process, as will be discussed later. Of types E/F in the period there are at least 32 settlement or hill fort sites holding unambiguous examples of human bodies that have undergone at least two stages of a transfer process and are accompanied by domestic refuse which sometimes may have similarly been the subject of more than one occasion of deposition. Examples include 1198 Danebury, 1182 Dibble's Farm, 320 All Cannings Cross, 306 Pimperne Down, 1012 Beard Mill A and 1192 Wood House.

In 100bc-AD43, the open site examples of B/C are again few in number, and of several site types: a ring ditch (1065 Ring Ditch 2, Langford Downs), a shaft (1330 Heywood), a round barrow (1295 Box 4), and two isolated pits (1209 Scotland Farm and 1513 St Richard's Road). types E/F on settlement and hill fort sites are much reduced, only eight examples providing unambiguous evidence, including 1173 Gussage All Saints, 1189 Allard's Quarry, 1191 Salmonsbury, and 1328 Cadbury Castle where there were shaft disposal deposits.

The hypothesis is therefore supported by the above evidence. Given the low numbers of unambiguous cases in some instances, it is hard to assess the probability of complex transfer activity being a common process in disposal rites. Other corroborating evidence (for example support for other relevant hypotheses) will be needed to establish that.

Table 55 shows that this is true for southern Britain in each period, the highest proportion being in 3500-2500bc (5%), but that incidence falls to very low levels (1-2%) thereafter. All areas have similar relatively high incidence in 3500-2500bc, but vary thereafter. The south west area has a much higher relative incidence than average throughout prehistory (6-7% barring one period), and the south east area a much lower relative incidence (with no incidences at all over 8/700bc-AD43). The south area matches the average for all. The examples include a wide variety of types of settlement evidence on which the monument has been built, from domestic refuse pits, to occupation areas including hearths and settlement debris, through to the sites of huts either deliberately dismantled to permit the monument to be constructed (such as, classically, that at 394 Saint-y-Nyll), or abandoned at some earlier phase of use of the site.

The hypothesis as phrased is supported for much of southern Britain, although the percentage of incidence is extremely low throughout prehistory, and the south east area appears to hold no evidence for the two last periods. The south west area provides the most consistent incidence, and the south area is around the average.

Four hypotheses have been examined that would support the proposition that process connections may have existed between settlement activity and disposal activity through prehistory. The first had some evidence to support it, and the second was well supported. The third certainly has support; not all of the test incidences could be demonstrated as present, but transfer activity of both simple and complex kind did take place. The fourth hypothesis was supported, although it laid few demands on the evidence: also the evidence for it was low in incidence generally, and the south east area provided none in the last two periods.

Proposition 5, that process connections may have existed between settlement activity and disposal activity through prehistory, as tested by these four hypotheses, is therefore found generally to hold.


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