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Wilsford G58

primary name: Wilsford G58

other name: RCH: Wilsford Group 18

archaeology / bronze age

SiteName: The Wilsford Group, Parish: Wilsford, County: Wiltshire, LocalityType: bell barrow, LocalityType: round barrow, Coordinates: NGR:ST11713982

Wilsford 23

Bell barrow with primary inhumation of a tall man (head SE.) on surface with flanged axe, perforated battle-axe, bone haft, grooved whetstone, bone tube, boar's tusk and bronze cauldron handle with hanging chain.
author: Martin, Andrew, Dr.

No. 18. This large bell-shaped barrow, 121 feet in diameter, and 11 in elevation, may be considered as the monarch of this group, both as to its superior size, as well as contents. On the floor of the barrow we found the skeleton of a very tall and stout man, lying on his right side, with his head towards the south-east. At his feet were laid a massive hammer of a dark-coloured stone, a brass celt, a tube of bone, a handle to some instrument of the same, a whetstone with a groove in the centre, and several other articles of bone, amongst which is the enormous tusk of a wild boar ; but amongst these numerous relicks, the most curious article is one of twisted brass, whose ancient use, I leave to my learned brother antiquaries to ascertain. It is unlike any thing we have ever yet discovered, and was evidently fixed into a handle, as may be seen by the three holes, and one of the pins still remaining: the rings seem to have been annexed to it for the purpose of suspension. This article, together with the celt and boar's tusk form a very interesting engraving, and are all drawn of the same size as the originals in TUMULI PLATE XXIX.

Wilsford Barrow 18 36 (V.C.H. Wilsford (S.) 58) (Fig. 3). This is a bell-barrow, 121 feet in diameter, and 11 feet high. Cunnington described his excavation of it thus : "A large bell shaped barrow, 121 feet in the base diameter and is 11 feet in elevation. This fine tumulus is on the western edge of the group, at the depth of 11 feet we found the skeleton of a very tall stout man, lying on its right side with its head to the south east. At the feet were found, a stone hatchet or hammer, a brass celt, a curious tube of bone, a bone handle to some instrument, a very curious whetstone with a groove up the middle, and some more articles of bone.... but the most curious article found in this tumulus is the brass instrument...." (i.e., the object described by ApSimon and Ashbee, fig. 4). (Cunnington MSS.13, p. 9.) This is the richest of the grave-groups discussed in these notes. It would seem to have been the barrow of a man of importance, and it can well be compared to the most princely of all graves of this period, Bush Barrow, Normanton." It may be no coincidence that both the skeletons were of " tall stout men." The Bone Tube:38 This has been carved from a long-bone, possibly human, but it has been so completely smoothed that it is not possible to identify it. It is complete in length, but in recent years one end has been damaged. In Part 1 of the Devizes Museum Catalogue, Goddard is the authority for saying that there was a side hole at the damaged end. All traces of this have now been broken away. Both ends have been squared off, and the interior of the bone has been scraped out and made circular. The use to which this tube has been put must remain a puzzle. If it did possess a hole at the side, near the narrow end, it might possibly have been a horn, although it is rather short for this class of wind instrument. The expanded end has been stained green, but this may be due to contact with the axe rather than an implication that it was a handle. Evans states that the chain for the forked instrument was fixed to this tube. This can only be his conclusion, and it is clearly incorrect. The nearest Wessex parallel is from Normanton Barrow 139. There seems little doubt that this is a flute made from the ulna of a large bird, perhaps a swan. It is 6.75 ins. long, with a carefully shaped mouth-piece; one, and possibly three, finger-holes are visible, the first beginning 3 ins. from the mouth-piece. The Bone Handle: This must be the handle to a knife, the blade of which was removed before burial. It is made of antler, ground to shape all over. At the narrow end, a short socket has been hollowed out, perhaps to receive some sort of pommel. The other end expands to fit the butt of a knife; it resembles the normal Bronze Age hilt, but lacks a semi-circular opening for the thumb. The four holes through the wider end are of two different types, one pair being counter-sunk, the other being cylindrical. The latter pair are so inclined that it would not be possible to fit a rivet of the same diameter as the holes; each inclines towards the centre of the handle. All the rivet holes, if such they are, fail to show any signs of wear. The socket of this handle however is rather rough, although this may be due to natural decay. The mark of the edge of the haft on the axe (see below) precludes its use as a scraper fitting into this handle. We suggest that this bone object may have been a model rather than a functional knife-handle. If it was such, it forms a close parallel to an exotic bronze handle from a hoard found at Blackrock, Sussex." The chronological difficulties that arise, should this analogy be correct, are considered at the end of these notes. The Sussex handle, a North European type, is dated between 125o and 1050 B.C. Perforated Bone Plate: This resembles the plate from Snail Down Barrow 2, except that its greater thickness has allowed its maker to bore two holes straight through it. No further comment seems necessary. Boar's Tusk: A boar's tusk, measuring 41 ins. from root to tip is preserved from this barrow but is not illustrated. It has been sharpened along the concave edge, which is clearly worn with use; it has not been perforated. In the Secondary Neolithic culture it was common to use tusks as scrapers and knives." The Grooved Whetstone: This specimen has one groove on the flat face. It has been better finished than that from Snail Down (see above). It is made from weathered Forest Marble of fine grain, which may have come from the Atworth area of Wiltshire. A larger whetstone, from Roundway Oval Barrow 0 is made of a similar rock, though with a coarser grain. The Stone Battle-axe: The much-used battle-axe, or axe-hammer, of greenstone seems to have been partly functional, partly a symbol of authority. It is a fine example of a Wessex Culture perforated axe, except that it is rather larger than usual and is not just a parade-piece. Its cylindrical perforation is parallel-sided but was probably bored initially by a hole started at each end. A similar axe, which has also been much used, was found in a barrow on Windmill Hill, Avebury," associated with a Grape Cup. This one was made of picrite, from the factory at Cwm Mawr, Shropshire. Another axe of picrite, from Chippenham, Cambs., also has a parallel-sided hole, but it is slightly oval in plan. The Bronze Axe: This is sufficiently large to have been a wood axe rather than a scraper. It has a central thickening and cast flanges. It may be considered a classic example of the British flat and flanged axes, its sides being nearly parallel, its blade expanding sharply and its butt thin and convex.

RCH 18: primary skeleton of tall man on floor, head SE., with perforated battle-axe or axe-hammer of ophitic dolerite (P. 294) slightly flanged axe, bone haft, bone tube, grooved whetstone, and boar's tusk (Wessex grave 89); also a bronze double handle, with hanging chain, from vessel of exotic type, prob. a cauldron, possibly with wooden rim an body and perhaps wheeled; probable origin, Central or N. Europe, date towards 1100 BC (CFCH). This object may or may not have been with the primary interment; possibly with a secondary interment which was not found. AW i. 209 pl. xxix; DMCat. i, 167 71, figs.; WAM xxxvii. 112-14 (better fig.), 157, no. 296; WAM Iv, 321-5 (Cf. PPS xiv. 186, 204; Childe, Prehist. Migrations in Europe, Oslo 1950, 202-3 Acta Arch. xx. 257-64.) LBA sherds have been found on this barrow by RSN.

Related object: DZSWS:STHEAD.168

Related object: DZSWS:STHEAD.170

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