Mysteries of Heath barrows to be revealed

Petersfield Heath is set to become the focus of a high tech archaeological dig. The 21 Bronze Age burial barrows on the heath are “unique” say experts and should be painstakingly investigated. Once that is done, the next step could be a careful excavation of some. 

The barrows on Petersfield Heath [Credit: Petersfield Post]
Although still under discussion, the proposal is gaining momentum, says West Sussex Archaeology expert George Anallay. 

He said: “Petersfield Town Council ground committee has recommmended when the full council meets in April it should support this project. If it does then we will arrange a meeting with groups like the Friends of Petersfield Heath, English Heritage, the national park authority and other interested parties to discuss the project in depth.” 

They have agreed to back the project in principle, pending a council decision. One enthusiastic supporter is Petersfield Museum acting curator Victoria Guest. She said: “The barrows haven’t been properly studied, surveyed and excavated. 

“They are thought to be unique in Great Britian, in number and layout, and should be properly documented and recorded. They were inexpertly excavated many years ago, but with the advances in modern surveying technology we could learn an immense amount from them now.” 

The project timetable suggests work should begin with an assessment of how the barrows fit into pre-history, and to try to understand their importance. Then the whole heath will be carefully surveyed to pinpoint the precise position of each mound, and to ensure none have been overlooked. 

Then a geophysical survey of each barrow, and the ground between them, will be carried out and may show where huts, cattle pens or field walls once were. 

A high tech aerial survey will produce pictures of the heath without vegetation and could reveal bigger settlements used by Bronze Age people 3,000 years ago. It is also hoped areas suitable for excavation will be identified. 

Vicky Guest is also the museum’s education officer and said: “We would love to get schools and local groups involved in the excavations, which would be very specific, targeted digs. We wouldn’t be excavating huge areas.” 

Petersfield councillor Grant Budden and council contracts officer Peter Jones are to join the archaeological team. 

Mr Jones said: “The heath is home to a nationally important Bronze Age cemetery and the barrows are a unique and important monument. Their future protection and our understanding of their history deserves special attention.”  

Source: Petersfield Post [March 29, 2012]

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