Science & Environment

Dig to uncover rare undisturbed Bronze Age burial

View across Morecambe Bay Image copyright Kevin Eaves/Thinkstock
Image caption The excavation is taking place at an undisclosed site near Morecambe Bay

An archaeological dig is under way on what experts say is a rare undisturbed Bronze Age burial mound in Lancashire.

Digging got under way this week at the site near Morecambe Bay, which was found by metal detectors, and is being excavated under expert supervision.

Archaeologists believe the site has remained untouched by ploughing or by the trowels of 19th and 20th Century antiquarians.

The excavation is being crowdfunded through the company DigVentures.

The site is thought to be a Bronze Age barrow, a circular mound often surrounded by a ditch. These round barrows can be found across Britain and were constructed between 2,200 BC and 1,100 BC.

They functioned as places of burial, but may also have been sites where ritual practices were carried out. However, many have been destroyed over the course of centuries by human activity such as farming.

Knife and chisel

Lisa Westcott Wilkins, co-founder and managing director of DigVentures, said that preliminary investigations, including a geophysics survey had already been carried out on the mound.

The venture is being described as the "first scientific excavation of a Bronze Age burial mound in the North West in over 50 years".

Image copyright DigVentures
Image caption The excavation is staffed by volunteers and professional archaeologists

Metal detectorists have already recovered a bronze knife and chisel thought to have made their way to the surface via natural processes. The artefacts so far are remarkably well preserved and led experts to wonder if the mound contains an undisturbed burial.

Early work on the site also suggests it was in use for 1,500 years, from the Late Neolithic period to the Middle or Late Bronze Age.

The Bronze Age is known to have been a period of great change across Europe; it coincided not only with a revolution in metal-working, but also with dramatic cultural shifts - including the arrival of new people and the possible introduction of new languages across the continent.

Secret location

The archaeologists will take precautions to prevent contamination of any burial so that ancient DNA can potentially be retrieved.

The precise location is being kept secret to prevent the theft of artefacts at night, an activity known as nighthawking.

DigVentures employs both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding on its projects and donors can join the digs as volunteers.

The excavation, which began on 4 July and runs until the 17 July, is being carried out in partnership with leading experts on Bronze Age archaeology.

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