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Detectorists find early Bronze Age burial site

A significant early bronze age burial site, believed to date from 2500BC, has been discovered near Morecambe Bay in northwestern England.

Detectorists find early Bronze Age burial site
A Bronze Age chisel found at the site 
[Credit: Matthew Hepworth/PA]
Grave goods could include objects ranging from daggers and ceramic vessels to jewellery, textiles and material such as amber, jet and gold.

The site will be excavated in July. Archaeologists were alerted to its existence by Matthew Hepworth, a nurse, who unearthed a well-preserved bronze age chisel using a metal detector.

Ben Roberts, a lecturer in later prehistory at Durham University and the British Museum’s former curator for European bronze age collections, said: “The potential is huge because untouched, undiscovered sites are very rare indeed. What’s really special about our site is that no one knew about it before … The barrow appears to be intact and it’s pretty substantial.”

Most bronze age burial sites have been destroyed by ploughing or historical looting. The Morecambe Bay find is all the more significant due to its substantial size. Initial exploration suggests that it spans 35 by 25 metres.

Brendon Wilkins, the project’s director, said the site had been overlooked “for millennia” because it “looks like any other field”. He added: “So few of these barrows come to us in the modern period that haven’t been interfered with previously.”

Hepworth followed the correct procedure on discovery of the chisel, notifying the authorities under the portable antiquities scheme. He is now being given a rare opportunity to work alongside the professional archaeologists in an excavation that is being partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The dig will involve the local community. The local council is providing a “pop-up shop” or “incident room” in which finds can be displayed immediately, and a screen will broadcast footage of the dig.

Wilkins said that finds reported to the antiquities scheme were often documented but not investigated – “because there isn’t the money to excavate these sites. So you end up with a very comprehensive map of regions with different find spots. But that’s just reconnaissance.”

The Morecambe Bay excavation is being partly financed through a crowdfunding project, DigVentures, a social enterprise founded by three archaeologists – including Wilkins – to address the severe cuts in local authority and university-funded research archaeology.

It has supporters worldwide, from professional archaeologists to ordinary people who have pledged money in return for various benefits, from joining the team in the field to masterclasses on identifying artefacts.

Author: Dalya Alberge | Source: The Guardian [March 13, 2016]

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