Bronze Age burial found at Iron Age site in Dorset

Staff and students from Bournemouth University, together with local volunteers, have been excavating Iron Age settlements around Winterborne Kingston in Dorset as part of the Durotriges Project since 2009. This past excavation season, however, while investigating an enclosed Iron Age farmstead, they came upon a completely unexpected discovery: an early Bronze Age burial (below).

Image: Bournemouth University 

To date, the Winterborne Kingston site, dubbed ‘Duropolis’ by the excavation team, has provided some of the most important evidence we have of the Durotriges tribe, who occupied Dorset up to the arrival of the Romans (see CA 281). This excavation season began like many of the previous ones, uncovering typical finds for the site, including five Iron Age burials and a number of cylindrical storage pits which, when abandoned, had been filled with the slaughtered remains of cows, horses, piglets, and sheep. More domestic items were also discovered, such as pottery, shale jewellery, and simple tools, including weaving combs made from cow bone and deer antler.

The Iron Age skeletons are significant since, as Dr Miles Russell, Director of Fieldwork at Bournemouth University, described: ‘In most parts of the country we don’t find much in the way of organised Iron Age burial before the Romans.’

In addition to the Iron Age interments, however, the team uncovered the burial of an adult male in a crouched position surrounded by three collared urns. The remains have yet to be radiocarbon dated, but this type of grave is most often associated with the very end of the Neolithic or beginning of the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago. While post-excavation analysis has not yet been completed, this is the first discovery from the period to be found at the Winterborne Kingston site, and could push back occupation and burial there by thousands of years. With excavations set to continue in June 2024, it is hoped that more evidence of the site’s earlier use will be revealed.