Having concluded that these features may represent cremation cemeteries rather than clusters of hay-stack gullies or other agricultural features, an option discarded once the widespread distribution of cremated bone, including cremated human teeth, was observed, we need to establish the date. The discovery of what appears to be a new class of monument, occurring in regular clusters respecting and clearly associated with the Iron Age and Roman 'ladder settlement' is of considerable importance. The archaeological record of the area is devoid of burial evidence from the late Iron Age, when inhumation in Square Ditched Barrows ceases, until the 5th century, when cemeteries like the excavated example at Heslerton start to be used (Haughton and Powlesland 1999). The discovery of Late Iron Age and Romano-British pottery in the ditch fills provides a chronological context for these features, although more extensive excavation of better preserved examples will be needed before we can be more precise about the date range of the monument class. On present evidence it seems that, following the demise of Square Barrow burial, cremation using these small monuments may have became the preferred rite. The cremation appears to have been placed on or near the old ground surface or in the mound make-up; the mound itself may have been retained by vertical planking, set in the enclosing slots. The role of the internal pits found in some examples remains unclear although it does appear that in the best-preserved example the cremation and burnt stone may have sat in the top of the filled-in pit rather than at the base.

The final phase of activity, when the later gully and fence slot were cut through them, indicates that by the Early Anglo-Saxon period these monuments were neither maintained nor even visible.

The excavation of this area demonstrated the devastating level of plough-damage that can occur from the cultivation of root crops. The large number of intercutting features, only two of which are visible in the geophysical survey, indicates that the results of the survey seriously understate the number and density of these features. The discovery of cremated human bone and Late Iron Age and Roman period ceramics indicates that the features are associated with cremation and can be broadly dated to the Late Iron Age and Roman periods. Much more extensive excavation of better preserved examples will be required to clarify the date range, construction and nature of the mounds and placement of the cremated remains.


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Last updated: Wed Nov 11 2009