Whitelow Cairn, Lancashire

So today I thought I would give you the final lot of radiocarbon info from my PhD.  These results came from Whitelow, a Bronze Age cairn in Lancashire.

This site was excavated in the 60’s by Norman Tyson and Bury Archaeological group.  The site is a ring cairn and before excavation was around 25m in diameter. The cairn also had an inner cairn, which may have later been elaborated with more cairn material.  There were 13 pits with cremated remains, there were also a number of ‘fire pits’ which may have related to the cremation rite, or other fire related activities!

Most of the human remains had been lost, but in recent years these were re-discovered by English Heritage and were given back to Bury Art Gallery and Museum.  So these remains had not been examined since they had been missing.  The analysis of the human remains gave an MNI of at least 13 cremated individuals of which two are probably male and four are probably female. Most are of the individuals are adults, there was one child, one older child or adolescent and one adolescent.  Of the associated artefacts there were collared urns, a bone pin, and two clay studs.

bone pin

Five of the 13 cremation deposits were sampled for radiocarbon dating, see the results below

Deposit Date cal BC 95%
Cremation F 2027-1891
Primary Cremation 2010-1776
Cremation C 1914-1757
Cremation D 1900-1746
Cremation G 1895-1743

The earliest burial so far dated from Whitelow is cremation F.  This was the burial of an adolescent and was in an inverted collared urn.  Over 1200g of cremated bone was in this deposit.  The other early burial was the ‘primary’ cremation which only had a small amount of bone.  This was a female of middle age. This deposit was accompanied with multiple objects including a bronze awl, five fish vertebrae, and a calcined flint.  This cremation was interesting as it was mostly of skull bones.

I had hoped to put an image of the site plan in this post but unfortunately my software is not behaving!

The site seems to have been used for a relatively short time in comparison to other Early Bronze Age sites (see my post on Hindlow).  The site is unusual as the majority of the cremated bone deposits are quiet large.  This is either due to the original deposition, or perhaps good excavation.

Other nearby sites for comparison include Shuttleworth/Bank Lane Cairn, Cheetham Close, and Moseley Height.   Shuttleworth Cairn was half a mile north of Whitelow, this site was similar in grave goods and structure.

This particular site is very important, as it is one of the few Bronze Age burial sites with a number of burials which has survived and been well excavated in the Lancashire area.  Thanks to Susan Lord at Bury Museum and Art Gallery for access and help.  These results, as well as those from Hindlow, Green Howe and Church Lawton will be published with much more detail, hopefully in the next year!  

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