Barrow Clump, on Salisbury Plain, has been a site of human activity for over five thousand years. Originally a Neolithic settlement site, a burial mound (or barrow) was constructed here in the Early Bronze Age and was re-used as a cemetery site in the Saxon period.
Although Barrow Clump is protected by its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Operation Nightingale was given special permission to excavate and record the barrow due to the extensive damage being caused by badgers. Previous excavations were carried out on the site in the early 20th century by Lt-Colonel William Hawley and in 2003–4 by English Heritage.
The Operation Nightingale excavation has been taking place over three summers, starting in 2012, with the aim of accurately recording this significant archaeological site as it could no longer be preserved in situ. The current phase of excavation will be the final one.
Finds from the Neolithic period have been limited so far, but include sherds of pottery and worked flint. In 2013, a large Neolithic pit was identified, containing hammerstones and deer antlers, although the function of this feature is as yet unknown.
Bronze Age artefacts have included an archer’s wristguard, a bone bead and a bone needle that were associated with a cremation burial. The substantial ring ditch surrounding the monument has been recorded, and an earlier ‘Beaker’ phase of burial mound construction on the same site has been identified. Two Beaker burials and two Bronze Age burials were found in the earlier excavations.
Evidence dating to the 6th century AD shows that the burial mound was re-used by Saxons from a local settlement. The cemetery contained more than 50 graves of men, women and children, with limited evidence for patterns or divisions between age, gender or social class. Several of the male burials were accompanied by items associated with warfare. These include spearheads and shield bosses (the metal centres of wooden shields). Female burials contained items of jewellery such as brooches, rings and beads.
The star find of the excavation so far has been a rare Saxon bucket, a type of manly drinking vessel. This bronze-bound tankard is so well preserved that even the wood (yew) has survived.
Find out more about the Operation Nightingale excavation at Barrow Clump by clicking on the following links to further information:
Come to the 2014 Open Day
View the Project Florence Exhibition
Read the 2012 Assessment Report
Read the 2013 Assessment Report
Watch the movie Operation Nightingale: Time Warriors