Friday, 17 June 2011


When professional or amateur diggers work on a burial site it is not just the possibility of grave goods that can quicken the heart. Many barrows can be seen in the landscape of Dorset, resting places for our ancestors for the past 3-4,000 years, and when it is imperiative that we save as much information as we can before some of them are destroyed by the hand of man or nature, it is not just a technical and scientific process that we are undertaking. This is the chance to preserve a persons remains into the future and for diggers to come into direct contact with that man or woman. They did not leave us a written record of who they were but they can still speak to us by what they left behind. They can speak to us across time.

Here, one of my students has the remains of the funeral pyre in his hands; the remains of a fire lit thousands of years ago to send one of our ancient family into the next world, as they would have believed. How they would have seen the next life is impossible to know fully, but the ritual surrounding the burial means that it was important to the community to say goodbye according to established religious ceremony. Not gold or precious stone, but treasure none the less.

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