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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 Anglo-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 took 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.
Finds from the Neolithic period were limited, 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 include an archer’s wristguard, a bone bead and a bone needle that were associated with a cremation burial. The cremated remains of two other individuals had been placed in Collared Urns. The substantial ring ditch surrounding the monument was recorded, and an earlier ‘Beaker’ phase of burial mound construction on the same site was 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 Anglo-Saxons from a local settlement. The cemetery contained more than 70 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) as well as a sword with gilded belt fittings and remains of the wood and leather scabbard. Female burials contained items of jewellery such as brooches, rings and beads.
The star find of the excavation was 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:
View the Project Florence Exhibition
Read the 2012 Assessment Report
Read the 2013 Assessment Report
Watch the movie Operation Nightingale: Time Warriors