Meeting in High Wood

Ancient oaks in High Wood

Ancient oaks in High Wood

I have been on holiday.. so this week’s contribution to Nancy’s blog is a meeting that took place over a quarter of a century ago.

I met a woman in a wood.. quite by chance. She was the same age as I was then, at least she had been before her family brought her there. She was the oldest woman I have ever met.., over 4000 years old. Of course, I never knew her.. what inspired her.. what she believed in. I will never be able to discover the things she liked or disliked. I just walked through the wood and almost missed her lying on the back of a tree.

There had been a great storm and many trees had fallen. This part of the wood was planted in the 18th century. Perhaps the Georgian woodsmen…who worked for Mr Bankes of Kingston Lacy, had found a mound which they had levelled to plant the new beech trees.

Over the years, the roots grew into the earth, found the woman’s bones and gently entwined them.. until the great storm of 1987 when the tree and body were ripped from the ground.

The first view of the Bronze Age crouched burial

The first view of the Bronze Age crouched burial

I saw a rounded shape in the chalky root bowl and cleaned it with my trowel and realised it was the top of a leg bone. I crouched down beside the fallen tree and spent time in the wood cleaning back the soil to reveal the doubled up, crouched body. Beside her was a curved worn stone, her grinding stone for turning grain into flour ..and at her feet, a broken pot, perhaps to contain food or a drink for her journey into her after life.

Her teeth were very worn and strong. I guess the bread made from the flour she ground on the sandstone quern had a lot of grit in it, which over the years would take its toll on the dentine.

The radiocarbon date from the burial was 2000-2300 BC

The radiocarbon date from the burial was 2000-2300 BC

Of all the excavations and research I have carried out ..on the generations that have lived and worked on Dorset’s Kingston Lacy Estate, she is the only archaeological person I have ever met. I wonder what her name was.

This is the Beech Avenue at Kingston Lacy. Many were blown over in the great storm

This is the Beech Avenue at Kingston Lacy. Many were blown over in the great storm

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