Developments at Long Bredy

The preliminary results are back from the aDNA and C14 dating of the three teenagers buried almost 3000 years ago in a field at Long Bredy in West Dorset.

In 2013 a service trench unexpectedly disturbed them almost a metre down below the colluvial soil, just upslope from the River Bride.

We went back in July 2019, camped in the field and tried to work out something from the jumble of of bones disturbed by the digger…We found the burial pit.

One body was very disturbed by the trench the other two had been contorted in strange positions when first buried. There were three skulls but there were traces of adult bones too.

The whole burial group had been crushed by large stones placed over the skeletons. Were these youngsters related?

Ian from York University has sent back the initial results from the 3 petrous bone samples… from the 3 skulls.

One was a boy and two were girls ..and …there was no DNA evidence that they were related.

We await dental isotope analysis which will give information on where they were raised (were they local?) and the aDNA information showing their links to a wider British and European ancestry.

The Early Iron Age burial pit after excavation looking east looking east along the line of the pipeline trench which first disturbed them in 2013. The teenage boy to the right and the two teenage girls to the left mixed with other fragments of bone including part of a hip from a fully developed adult. The arrows point to where the bone samples were taken before the skeletons were reburied.

But the more we find out… the more curious this very unusual and rare burial group seems to be.

So far, there have been no known burials… of this type …and from this period.. found in Dorset.

The contents of this burial pit seem strange. Why are they all so young? We know so little about the belief system that created it….a different cultural world…

A Fortnight in the Country

Posted on  by martinpapworth

I will arise now and go, and go down into the secluded west. And a small cabin place there, of tools and finds boxes filled: A camping stove will I have there, a tent for sleep. And live alone…but only in the evening when the diggers go home.

The water fills the bucket slowly. There is time to re-visit the trench, around the hedge corner and down the grassy slope. We found the burials today. The trench is deep and needs to be accessed by a ramp. Crossing the site, I enter the pipe trench that disturbed them. We have returned after some years for DNA and to try to understand why they are here.

Kneeling to see. A row of white molars barely fully formed. The bones small and light. A jumble.. pinned down by large stones. At least three people here but the area of stones we have uncovered today suggests that there may be several more.

Who were these children who lived over 2700 years ago in this beautiful place. I hear the trickle of the stream below me and look up to the green rounded hills. This was their home.. unless they were brought here. Did they work and play on this land? Why did they die so young?

The trench-talk was of the joys of prehistory. Ancestors who were greener, more environmental. A religion which valued mother earth …but we know so little. So many British prehistoric religions over thousands of years. Wedding bells merged with the conversation.

They would have been so pleased with my plastic bucket ….gradually filling so conveniently.

Who knows what the Late Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age belief structure was. Human remains from this period are incredibly rare but sometimes archaeologists find bits of body mixed up with other debris in huge middens. As I looked at these young bones… life at that time seemed hard, brutal and nasty. How to interpret?

The specialists will come, examine, analyse but next Friday we will leave them here. Put the stones back in place. This was their home where there were people who cared for them and left them to rest.

The bucket is overflowing. I carry it across the field to the cabin.Make tea. Watch the long evening sun highlight the earthworks of the village’s stepped medieval field system.

I will take the short footpath to the parish church beside the field nestled against the hill slope. Enjoy the quiet prayers of the generations.

A full moon is coming and.. through a clear sky, this lovely landscape will be washed silver.

And I will have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings. WB Yeats The Lake Isle of Innisfree

A place to stay

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