In September 2014, staff from OA South excavated an early Bronze Age round barrow on Dartmoor in its entirety. This rare opportunity arose when quarry company Sibelco was granted permission to extend its quarry pit and extract china clay from the moorland beneath the scheduled monument. In turn, Sibelco relinquished its mineral rights to other archaeologically-sensitive areas and, with English Heritage (now Historic England), funded the excavation.

Following a topographic survey, the barrow was excavated to reveal a primary low turf mound sealing a buried soil. A small cairn almost exclusively of diorite fragments overlay the primary mound, and within the cairn a central deposit containing prehistoric pottery and quartz fragments and capped by a diorite slab was found. No traces of human remains were encountered. The cairn was covered by a larger secondary turf mound, which was surrounded by a fragmented kerb of granite blocks. A substantial hollow in the top of the mound and disturbance to the central area of the cairn point towards an unrecorded antiquarian investigation of the barrow.

The investigation also involved community participation. Up to six volunteers worked with the OA team at any one time, and an open day was held towards the end of the excavation.

The fieldwork not only allowed Silbelco to extend its quarry, but gave us an almost unique opportunity to investigate the structure and landscape of a barrow in a setting that has seen very few archaeological excavations. Post-excavation work funded by Historic England is now underway.


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