A Bronze Age barrow and Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Bowcombe Down, 575m south east of Apesdown
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 11-Aug-2020 at 08:44:36.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SZ 46090 87259
Reasons for Designation
Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence from distinctive burials
and cemeteries, new settlements, and new forms of pottery and metalwork, of
the immigration into Britain of settlers from northern Europe, bringing with
them new religious beliefs. The Roman towns appear to have gone into rapid
decline and the old rural settlement pattern to have been disrupted. Although
some Roman settlements and cemeteries continued in use, the native Britons
rapidly adopted many of the cultural practices of the new settlers and it soon
becomes difficult to distinguish them in the archaeological record. So-called
Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the
fifth to the seventh centuries AD. With the conversion to Christianity during
the late sixth and seventh centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have
been abandoned in favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up
to the present day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation.
Inhumations involved the placing of burials in rectangular pits in the ground,
occasionally within coffins. Cremation burials involved the placing of burnt
remains in containers which were then buried in small pits in the ground. The
most common burial containers were pottery vessels, frequently heavily
decorated, although glass and metal ones are also known. In each type of
burial the human remains might be accompanied by those of animals and also
grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. In some cemeteries only one of
these burial rites was practised, in others, both are evident. Cemeteries
range in size, the largest containing several thousand burials. Individual
cemeteries were in use for up to 300 years. Anglo-Saxon cemeteries represent
one of our principal sources of archaeological evidence about the early Anglo-
Saxon period, providing information on population, social structure and
ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily
disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.
The Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Bowcombe Down is one of two recorded examples on the Isle of Wight. Finds from the ground surface in the years following excavation and levelling demonstrated that archaeological remains do survive while environmental evidence will also be present, relating to the cemetery and the landscape in which it was constructered. A Bronze Age round barrow within the area of the cemetery has been reused for secondary Anglo-Saxon internments. This Bronze Age barrow is one of six along the ridge of Bowcombe Down, forming part of a prehistoric round barrow cemetery dating to the period c.2000-700 BC.
The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon cemetery arranged around and located
within an earlier Bronze Age bowl barrow. It lies on the ridge of Bowcombe
Down and is now levelled by cultivation, although remains are visible on
The Bronze Age barrow, at the south west of the monument, was the largest of a
group of 12 observed by Hillier in the middle of the 19th century, the
remainder being smaller Saxon barrows or `hleaw'. All of the barrows were part
excavated by Hillier and Wilkins in the 19th century: the 11 smaller barrows
were excavated in 1854, and the Bronze Age barrow in 1858. The Bronze Age
barrow produced two Bronze Age cremations, one in a shallow pit under the
centre of the mound, and another near the mound's summit. In addition,
12 inhumations of Saxon date were recovered suggesting that this earlier
burial monument provided the focus for the Saxon cemetery. Finds from this
barrow included an iron sword and shield fitting, spearheads, knives and
arrowhead, bronze ornaments, pottery, glass, beads and a bead necklace.
Surrounding the Bronze Age barrow are five of the Saxon barrows, while the
other six lie to its north east. All of the barrows in the north eastern group
contain cremations; the south western group is mixed. In addition to the
burials, finds from these barrows included a bronze brooch and strap end, an
iron knife, a Roman coin and both complete and broken ceramic urns.
Of the total of 34 Saxon graves recorded at this site, 14 were cremations and
20 inhumations. Of the cremations, all but two were in urns and only those two
were accompanied by grave goods. Only one of the inhumations was
Numerous additional finds have come from the monument, particularly from the
late 1970s onwards. These include human bone representing further inhumations
and cremations, bronze artefacts, and Anglo-Saxon metal work, including a
Gates, gateposts and post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling,
but the ground beneath these features is included.
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
Arnold, C J, The Abnglo-Saxon Cemeteries of the Isle of Wight, (1982), 90
Arnold, C J, The Abnglo-Saxon Cemeteries of the Isle of Wight, (1982), 89
Grinsell, , Sherwin, , 'Proceedings of the I.O.W. Nat History and Archaeological Soc' in Procedings of the I.O.W. Nat History and Archaeological Soc, , Vol. 3, (1940), 184,198
Ordinance Survey Field Inspector, Ordinance Survey card SZ48NE3, (1967)
Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Card SZ 48 NE 3, (1967)
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