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Neolithic funerary urn unearthed at Silsden dig

A 5,000 year old complete funeral urn has been excavated on housing development land in Silsden, in West Yorkshire, England. The late Neolithic pot was dug up from the site of an ancient barrow in what archaeologists have described as an ‘exciting find.’

Neolithic funerary urn unearthed at Silsden dig
Late Neolithic cinerary urn [Credit: West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record]
Arrow heads, pottery, and flint tools have also been unearthed during the seven week dig before Barratt Homes begin building work.

Prospect Archaeology organised the work on behalf of Barratt Homes and it was carried out by Archaeological Services WYAS.

Senior archaeologist David Hunter said the funeral urn, which is thought to have contained human remains, is made of pot and dates from 3,000BC.

Neolithic funerary urn unearthed at Silsden dig
The urn is raised intact for excavation in laboratory conditions 
[Credit: West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record]
It marks the resting place of an important individual.

“We will X-ray and cat scan the urn before we start to remove the contents,” said Mr Hunter.

The archaeological site was quite prominent to the trained eye, but a magnetometer survey was carried out by ASWYAS’ geophysics team as the first stage of the evaluation. This revealed a number of of very clear anomalies several of which were associated with burial practices in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Excavation & evaluation confirmed Prehistoric activity was confined to a ridge of gravel.

Neolithic funerary urn unearthed at Silsden dig
Neolithic leaf-shaped flint arrowhead [Credit: West Yorkshire Historic 
Environment Record]
The archaeological features comprised a 100ft across double ditched barrow, a probable mortuary enclosure and double pit alignment.

The dig produced rare but characteristic flints and pottery including a “Neolithic” leaf shaped arrow head, a later flint blade and the complete collered urn, found in a pit towards the centre of the barrow and likely to be the primary burial and focus of the barrow.

The urn has been lifted complete to permit excavation and conservation to take place in the laboratory. These large vessels are believed to have been principally made for ritual and burial practices and were decorated with incised lines.

Neolithic funerary urn unearthed at Silsden dig
Aerial view of the barrow which dates from 3,000BC [Credit: West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record]
The size, form and artefacts point to the barrow being created in the later Neolithic to early Bronze Age some 5000 to 4500 ago and the burial of an important individual in a prominent location.

Mr Hunter said: "Other pottery and a later cremated burial were also excavated from the barrow and barrow ditches showing it remained an important feature of the upper Aire Valley into the Bronze Age. Taken together this is a rare and excited find!"

It is hope the funeral urn will eventually go on display at Cliffe Castle Museum.

Source: Keighley Online [June 30, 2017]

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