Three Roman burial mounds, a Bronze Age bowl barrow, a pagan Saxon inhumation cemetery and a short length of Roman road on Overton Hill.
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- West Overton
- National Grid Reference:
- SU 11993 68290
Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country.
The monument contains a rare combination of burial remains dating from the Neolithic up to the Saxon period. The Bronze Age bowl barrow is a rare form in the Avebury area and is part of the nationally important Overton Hill round barrow cemetery. The Roman barrows represent a unique group and their relationship to the well preserved section of the Roman road is of importance in understanding the Roman landscape of the Avebury region. The site later became a focus for an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery contemporary with the Saxon settlement in Avebury village. The various elements present on the site represent important examples of their class, with the Roman road being exceptional in the extent to which it remains visible as an earthwork. All will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the development of the monument and the changing use of the Avebury landscape in which they were built.
The monument includes three Roman burial mounds, a Bronze Age bowl barrow
forming part of the Overton Hill round barrow cemetery, a short length of
Roman road and an Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery. The monument is located
south-east of Avebury on Overton Hill, at the point where the Roman road
running east-west intersects the older prehistoric Ridgeway track, running
Until the partial excavation of all four barrows in 1962, it was thought that
only the road dated to the Roman period and that all the round barrows were
Bronze Age. It is now known that the clustering of three Roman barrows
adjacent to the Roman road is a unique occurrence within the British Isles.
The earliest evidence for burial on the site is a Bronze Age bowl barrow 20m
across and 0.5m high. When examined, this barrow was found to be unusual
because there was no trace of a ditch and the construction of the barrow was
similar to `Beaker' period barrows in Wales. The barrow was constructed on an
artificial stone ring-cairn and this preserved evidence of the earlier
Neolithic landscape on which the barrow was built. The barrow contained a
skeleton in a central grave, accompanied by a Long Necked Beaker, surrounded
by a bank of flint and sarsen which covered two child burials. Subsequent
burials in the central area, including both inhumations and cremations, two in
urns, were dated to the first phase of the `Wessex' culture. In addition, four
undisturbed Saxon secondary burials with iron spears, knives and shield bosses
The section of Roman road is part of the important Roman route from Londinium
(London) to Aquae Sulis (Bath). This well preserved section is 210m long and
15m wide, standing as a clearly visible earthwork up to 0.5m high. Running
parallel to the road carriageway, on either side, are 5m wide ditches which
have become infilled over time as a result of cultivation. The ditch to the
south of the carriageway is, however, just visible as an earthwork. These
ditches provided a means of drainage to keep the road surface clear, and to
facilitate this the road surface was cambered, in the same way as modern
The three contemporary Roman burial mounds can be described as follows:
(SU11926833) Roman burial mound 6.7m across and 0.3m high. Surrounding the
barrow mound is a ditch from which material was quarried during the
construction of the monument. This has become infilled over time but survives
as a buried feature c.1m wide. When examined, the barrow was found to contain
a central cremation pit and disturbed pieces of cremated human bone, as well
as fragments of bronze. Fragments of unburnt human bone dated to the Anglo-
Saxon period were also found in the disturbed areas of this mound.
(SU11926835) Roman burial mound 6.7m across and 0.2m high. Surrounding the
barrow mound is a ditch c.1m wide. When examined, the barrow contained a
central cremation pit and bronze fragments of Roman date. The ditch of this
mound contained post-holes, suggesting that the mound was surrounded by a
fence or similar structure. Anglo-Saxon pottery fragments and unburnt bone
suggest that the mounds were used for secondary interments.
(SU11936837) Roman burial mound 11m across and 0.3m high. Surrounding the
mound is a ditch c.1m wide. When examined, this mound contained a central
Roman cremation pit and the ditch contained post-holes. In addition to
fragments of secondary Anglo-Saxon interments, the ditch was cut by a shallow
grave containing an extended skeleton of a child, head to the south-west and
accompanied by Anglo-Saxon pottery sherds.
A Saxon inhumation cemetery including adult warriors and children, numbering
at least ten individuals, was later placed on the site. The full extent of
this is not currently known.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Smith, I F, Simpson, D D A, 'Wiltshire Arch. and Natural History Society Magazine' in Wiltshire Arch. and Natural History Society Magazine, , Vol. 59, (1964), 68-85
Smith, I F, Simpson, D D A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society: Volume NS 32, , Vol. NS 32, (1966), 122-155
SU 16 NW 55 a, b, c, RCHM(E), Three Roman Tombs on Overton Hill, (1973)
SU 16 NW 55 d, RCHM(E), A bowl barrow (SU 16 NW 55 d), (1973)
SU 16 NW 55, RCHM(E), Pagan Saxon inhumations, (1973)
SU 16 NW 93, RCHM(E), Anglo-Saxon skeletons in agger of Roman road., (1973)
SU 16 NW 93, RCHM(E), Inhumations found during bull-dozing of Ridgeway, (1973)
SU 16 NW 93, RCHM(E), Skeletons discovered during bull-dozing of Ridgeway, (1973)
SU 16 NW 93, RCHM(E), Three Roman Tombs on Overton Hill (SU 16 NW 93), (1973)
SU16NW300, CAO, Roman Road from Cunetio to Aquae Sulis, (1989)
SU16NW706, CAO, RB barrow excavated by Smith and Simpson, (1989)
SU16NW707, CAO, RB tomb with disturbed secondary burials., (1989)
SU16NW708, CAO, RB tomb with secondary Saxon burials., (1989)
SU16NW93, RCHM(E), Roman Road, (1973)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing