The Lesser Cursus and a triple bowl barrow forming part of a linear round barrow cemetery south east of Greenland Farm on Winterbourne Stoke Down
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010901
Date first listed: 10-Mar-1925
Date of most recent amendment: 20-Jun-1995
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Winterbourne Stoke
National Grid Reference: SU 10511 43486
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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 Bronze Age periods.
Two of the best known and the earliest recognised areas are around Avebury and
Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a World Heritage Site.
The area of chalk downland which surrounds Stonehenge contains one of the
densest and most varied groups of Neolithic and Bronze Age field monuments in
Britain. Included within the area are Stonehenge itself, the Stonehenge
cursus, the Durrington Walls henge, and a variety of burial monuments, many
grouped into cemeteries.
The area has been the subject of archaeological research since the 18th
century when Stukeley recorded many of the monuments and partially excavated a
number of the burial mounds. More recently, the collection of artefacts from
the surfaces of ploughed fields has supplemented the evidence for ritual and
burial by revealing the intensity of contemporary settlement and land-use.
In view of the importance of the area, all ceremonial and sepulchral monuments
of this period which retain significant archaeological remains are identified
as nationally important.
A cursus is an elongated rectilinear earthwork, the length of which is normally greater than 250m, with its length usually more than ten times its width. The sides are usually defined by a bank and external ditch, as in this example, but occasionally by a line of closely-set pits. The two long sides run roughly parallel and may incorporate earlier monuments of other classes. Access to the interior was restricted to a small number of entranceways, usually near the ends of the long sides. Cursus monuments vary in length, from 250m at the lower end of the range up to 5.6km in the case of the Dorset Cursus. The width is normally in the range 20m-60m, and in no case greater than 130m. The greatest variations in the ground-plan occur at the terminals, which feature both round-ended and square-ended earthworks. Datable finds from cursus monuments are few. Early Neolithic pottery has been found in the primary silting of some ditches, but re-cutting or extending of the ditches at some sites suggests that the monument type was in use over a long period.
Cursus monuments have been interpreted in various ways since their initial identification. The name itself is the Latin term for race-track and this is one of the functions suggested by Stukeley in the 18th century. More recently a ritual or ceremonial role has been assigned, particularly in the light of evidence of the burning of animal carcases and the association with burial monuments of various classes. Cursus monuments are widely scattered across central and southern England. The majority lie on the flat, well-drained gravel terraces of major river valleys, but a number are known on the chalk downlands of Dorset and Wiltshire. There are several examples in northern England. About 40 are known in England.
Later in date than the Lesser Cursus is the triple bowl barrow, a funerary monument of a type dating from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, normally ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a variety of burial practices. The burials, either inhumations or cremations, are sometimes accompanied by pottery vessels, tools and personal ornaments. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally and at least 320 in the Stonehenge area.
The triple bowl barrow 10m north west of the western end of the Lesser Cursus survives well. It is a rare example of a confluent round barrow and forms an integral part of the linear round barrow cemetery south east of Greenland Farm on Winterbourne Stoke Down. Despite levelling by cultivation, the Lesser Cursus forms an important element in the range of ceremonial monuments within the Stonehenge area. Both earthworks are known from partial excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the Lesser Cursus and a triple bowl barrow forming part
of a linear round barrow cemetery, situated immediately beyond its western
end. The monument is aligned broadly east to west along the summit of a broad
flat-topped ridge on Winterbourne Stoke Down, some 400m south east of
Greenland Farm. The location is intervisible with the western end of the
Greater Cursus. The cemetery contains six round barrows in all, including four
bowl barrows and two bell barrows. The triple bowl barrow is the easternmost
member of the cemetery and, together with the Lesser Cursus, is contained
within this monument.
The Lesser Cursus is a long rectangular earthwork which is now difficult to identify on the ground. However, it is visible on aerial photographs and has been investigated by recent geophysical survey and partial excavations in 1983 which revealed two phases of construction. The first phase comprises an enclosure 200m long and 60m wide, defined by an outer ditch c.1m wide, with a possible entrance at the junction of the southern flanking ditch and the eastern terminal ditch. The enclosure was elongated eastwards in the second phase by a further 200m. The original ditch was widened to 1.5m and the new ditch dug to the same size, giving the cursus an overall length of 400m. The eastern end of the monument is not enclosed. An internal bank, 2.2m wide to 4.6m wide is visible on aerial photographs and has been confirmed by excavation. Finds recovered during the excavations included a red deer antler, pottery and worked flint.
The three mounds of the triple bowl barrow are now difficult to identify individually and have the profile of a long mound, orientated east to west, 1.3m high and c.45m long. It is 22m wide at the western end and 14m wide at the eastern end. The mound is surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried during its construction. This has become infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature c.2.5m wide, giving the triple barrow an overall length of c.50m and a maximum width of c.27m. Partial excavation in the 19th century revealed a crouched burial and four leaf-shaped javelin heads in the western mound, a small cup in the central mound and a primary burial and beaker in the eastern mound.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included in the scheduling.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 10351
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 126
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 202
Hoare, R C, Ancient History of Wiltshire, (1812), 169
Hoare, R C, Ancient History of Wiltshire, (1812), 165
RCHME, , Stonehenge and its Environs, (1979), 19-20
Richards, J C, The Stonehenge Environs Project, (1984), 11-12
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 38, (), 369
Thurnham, J, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine.' in On Leaf-shaped Javelin heads of Flint, , Vol. 11, (), 42-44
Richards, J.C., W55, (1983)
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