Carolyn H of "Roundtop Ruminations" said recently that sometimes she felt that her photos only had a tenuous link to her writing (though both photos and writing are always excellent, in my opinion). So in that spirit, the above picture (of a place called Chapel Hill) has only the slightest bearing on what I'm about to write about, namely somewhere else called Grinnel Hill.
For anyone who's followed me this far, Grinnel Hill is the site of the Bronze Age burial mound that I wrote about in a recent post entitled "A Local Landmark". It seemed to spark a lot of interest from those who read it, more than I expected to tell the truth; I thought my enthusiasm for things ancient and obscure was just a personal eccentricity. Among the comments was a question from Carolyn H - you see how this is all fitting together! What she wanted to know was "Have these mounds ever been excavated?"
The mounds are thought to have been the grave sites of the Beaker people who were so named from the elaborate earthenware beakers which were found in their graves. They are thought to have been a quite different and more technologically advanced people than the earlier inhabitants. The greatest achievement which they brought with them was the ability to work in metal - bronze in fact. Their arrival in Britain in about 2000BC marks the start of the period known as the Bronze Age.
Our evidence for the kind of lives these people might have led comes in no small measure from what has been recovered from their burial mounds. In the south of the county of Cambridgeshire many of these sites were excavated, often led by enthusiastic historians from the University of Cambridge, while in the fen country to the north of the county many were ploughed out without being fully investigated; we only know of their existence because their position can still be seen from crop-markings which are often only visible from the air.
In some ways the enthusiasm of the early investigators was unfortunate as they may well have destroyed much evidence which could have yielded more detailed information to more modern scientific methods. On the other hand, without their intervention many of the sites would have simply disappeared.
What they found was quite varied. Usually the mounds were the burial place of just one individual's cremated remains. However some sites were then used later for subsequent burials and in some mounds skeletons have been discovered rather than cremated remains. This is hardly surprising as the Bronze Age lasted for around 1,500 years and in that time different customs may have developed.
Cremated remains were sometimes found in a earthenware vessel but at other times left in a bag - only the clasps of these bags are ever found, the bag having rotted away. Grave goods are sometimes included to help the deceased on their journey to the next life. In this area pots and flint tools are quite commonly found but more elaborate items occasionally turn up. These have included highly decorated pots, necklaces, shale buttons, daggers, bronze pins, pendants and urns.
From the items, which have been found in burial mounds and elsewhere, archaeologists believe that these people traded over a wide area, certainly with other parts of England and possibly with the rest of Europe.
Well, that's probably a longer answer than you were expecting Carolyn. Oh, and there is another burial mound on Chapel Hill (photograph at top of page) in case you were wondering what the tenuous connection might be!