One Thing After Another: the Date of the Ascott-under-Wychwood Long Barrow Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Forty-four radiocarbon results are now available from the Ascott-under-Wychwood long barrow, and are presented within an interpretive Bayesian statistical framework. Three alternative archaeological interpretations of the sequence are given, each with a separate Bayesian model. In our preferred model, pre-barrow occupation including small timber structures and a midden was followed by a gap long enough to allow a turfline to form. Cists and the primary barrow were then initiated and the first human remains inserted into the cists; there was subsequently a secondary extension to the barrow. In the Bayesian model for this interpretation, occupation goes back to the fortieth century cal. bc, the midden being quite short-lived in the latter part of the fortieth or first part of the thirty-ninth century cal. bc. The gap was very probably not less than 50 years long, in the latter part of the thirty-ninth century cal. bc and the first half of the thirty-eighth century cal. bc. The barrow was begun between 3760–3695 cal. bc and extended in 3745–3670 cal. bc, probably within a generation. The first bodies were inserted in 3755–3690 cal. bc, contemporaneously with the primary barrow, and the last remains were probably deposited in the 3640s or 3630s cal. bc. The use of the monument probably did not exceed three to five generations. In an alternative interpretation of the sequence, greater continuity is seen between the underlying timber structures and midden on the one hand and the cists on the other, which could have preceded the initiation of the barrow itself. The Bayesian model for this interpretation suggests the gap between occupation and barrow was much shorter, probably of only 1–40 years' duration. It gives slightly different other estimates for the sequence but agrees with the main model in suggesting an overall short span of use for the whole monument. In a third interpretation, some of the human remains are interpreted as older than the cists and barrow. The Bayesian model for this again gives slightly different estimates but suggests that such putatively ancestral remains would not have been more than a decade or two older than the initiation of cists and barrow. Results are briefly discussed in relation to the overall sequence from occupation and midden to monument, the brevity of monument use, and issues of remembrance.

authors

  • Bayliss, Alex
  • Benson, Don
  • Galer, Dustin
  • Humphrey, Louise
  • McFadyen, Lesley
  • Whittle, Alasdair

publication date

  • February 2007