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TVAS News: Monuments to the Dead at West Meon, Hampshire

The TVAS archaeology team, working on behalf of Drew Smith Ltd and Hyde Housing Association have been excavating an area on the outskirts of West Meon, Hampshire in advance of housing construction. Preliminary work in the form of trial (evaluation) trenches identified a Bronze Age ring ditch and a small number of Saxon graves. We have opened up the area around the ring ditch to identify its full extent and record and excavate it and any burials that may be at risk from the future development of the site.

Once excavated, the ring ditch proved to be 29m in diameter with the ditch itself being c.3.5m wide and 1.5m deep. In the centre, which would have originally been built up into a barrow mound but has now been ploughed away, was a singe urn holding cremated human remains. An un-urned cremation deposit was found on the lip of the ditch and a further urn was excavated to the southwest of the ring ditch. The style of the pottery suggests that the barrow probably dates from the early Bronze Age, around 1700 BC. As the ring ditch was excavated the upper layers of fill were found to contain numerous struck flints. It appears that the flint nodules within the chalk from the ditch digging had been used as a convenient source of raw material for flint tools in the Bronze Age.

A total of 49 Saxon burials were found cut into the ground surrounding the ring ditch and even into the fill of the ditch itself. These are a mix of adults, teenagers and children who were buried in a variety of crouched and stretched out (extended) positions. Some of the graves are orientated east-west but the majority are north-south. Several of the individuals were buried with grave goods including weapons, jewellery and tools which, when combined with the orientation of the bodies, strongly suggests that the burials are pre-Christian, probably from the 6th or 7th centuries AD.

A site open day held while excavations were in progress proved very popular with the local residents and archaeological groups. A series of posters were created detailing our findings and discussing two of the burials in particular detail. These can be downloaded using the links to the right or here: TVAS Educational Resources.

Click on the thumbnails below to download the posters (PDF format, 830KB and 9.36MB):

West Meon poster 1. 830KB West Meon poster 2. 9.36MB

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

A view of the excavated ring ditch, looking northeast. Two burials cut into the upper levels of the ring ditch fill.

An iron spearhead that had been buried with Skeleton 1155. The wooden shaft of the spear once lay down the skeleton's left side but has rotted away over the years leaving just the iron head. Some of the excavated iron spearheads and knife blades which had been buried as gravegoods with the bodies.

The four beads, two stone and two coloured glass, found near the neck of Skeleton 1196 - a 5-year-old child. TVAS Director Steve Ford tells visitors about the ring ditch during the site open day.

Visitors read the poster display during the site open day. The posters are available to download above the photo thumbnails. Visitors of all ages inspect one of the burials that was left in situ for the site open day.