Cursus, long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch and other associated cropmarks 700m east of Netherexe Barton
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Sep-2019 at 11:41:27.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- East Devon (District Authority)
- Nether Exe
- National Grid Reference:
- SX 94094 99975
Reasons for Designation
A cursus is an elongated rectilinear earthwork enclosure whose length is over 250m and whose proportions are such that the long axis is more than ten times the short axis. The sides are usually defined by a bank and external ditch, but occasionally by a line of closely-set pits. The two long sides run roughly parallel, and may incorporate earlier monuments of other classes. The function of cursus monuments is not known, although they are presumed to be ritual or ceremonial monuments. About 40 cursus monuments are currently known in England and these are widely scattered across central and eastern areas. They were constructed and used throughout much of the Middle and Late Neolithic period (c.3000-2400 BC) making them amongst the earliest field monuments to survive in the modern landscape and one of the few known Neolithic monument types. They are representative of their period and, as few examples have been excavated, they have a particularly high value for future study with the potential to provide important evidence on the nature and variety of beliefs amongst prehistoric communities. Due to their rarity and longevity as a monument type, all cursus monuments are considered to be of national importance. In addition to the cursus, a long mortuary enclosure survives within the area of the scheduling. Long mortuary enclosures are oblong-shaped areas of land up to 150m in length, bounded by narrow, fairly straight ditches on all sides, with slightly rounded corners, and containing an open space edged by a perimeter bank set just inside the ditch. Characteristically, there are two or more major causeways across the ditch which served as entrances. The function of long mortuary enclosures is not known with certainty though they are generally interpreted as ceremonial monuments of Early and Middle Neolithic date (3200-2500 BC). They are extremely rare with only about 35 examples known and these are widely scattered through southern and eastern England. Many long mortuary enclosures lie adjacent to other ritual and ceremonial sites of Neolithic date including henge and cursus monuments, and occasionally are found together in small groups. They are particularly representative of their period and, as few examples have been excavated, they have a high value for future study with the potential to provide evidence on the nature and variety of beliefs amongst prehistoric communities. The ring ditch lying within the area of the scheduling, probably represents a plough-levelled bowl barrow. Bowl barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Despite limited damage as a result of ploughing, the cursus, long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch and other associated cropmarks 700m east of Netherexe Barton together form an unusual complex of related early prehistoric features. Important information concerning the relationship between the different components of this monument survives and should provide evidence concerning Neolithic ritual activity in western Britain.
This monument includes part of a cursus, a long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch
and other associated crop marks, representing associated buried archaeological
remains, situated on a gentle west-facing slope overlooking the valley of the
River Exe. The cursus survives as a clearly defined cropmark in the form of
an elongated rectilinear ditch forming an enclosure measuring at least 188m
long by 23m wide. At the south western end the two long lengths of surviving
ditch come together as a rounded terminal. The north eastern end of this
cursus is no longer visible and therefore the original length of the cursus is
not known at present. A circular ditched feature with a diameter of 8m is
visible within the cursus. This may represent a Bronze Age burial monument.
The long mortuary enclosure lies 18m south west of the cursus and survives as
a 60m long and 14m wide oval-shaped enclosure surrounded by a ditch. A gap in
the north eastern circuit of the ditch represents an original entrance.
The ring ditch lies a short distance to the NNW of the long mortuary enclosure
and survives as a 15m diameter circle of enhanced crop growth. This feature
represents a circular gully and is the ditch from which material was quarried
during the construction of a now plough-levelled round barrow. Other linear
cropmarks in the area north and west of the cursus probably represent an early
field system. Fieldwalking of this monument has revealed a significant number
of Neolithic flint implements of a type generally associated with ritual
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
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24 - 25
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24 -25
Devon Air Photo Project, Devon Air Photo Project - Mapping SX9499, (1993)
Frances Griffith, (1993)
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