Middle Rigg round barrows and segmented embanked pit alignment
- 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.
- North Yorkshire
- Scarborough (District Authority)
- National Park:
- NORTH YORK MOORS
- National Grid Reference:
- NZ 73997 10691
Reasons for Designation
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, 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 organisations amongst early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of
Excavation of other round barrows in the region has shown that they demonstrate a very wide range of burial rites from simple scatters of cremated material to coffin inhumations and cremations contained in urns, typically dating to the Bronze Age. A common factor is that barrows were normally used for more than one burial and that the primary burial was frequently located on or below the original ground surface, often with secondary burials within the body of the mound. Pit alignments have been identified in many locations across the country, normally as crop mark sites. They frequently extend for great distances and are considered to have acted as territorial markers or boundaries. However the pit alignment on Middle Rigg is of an unusual form, both in being embanked and arranged in segments. Only three other similar sites are known, all within the River Esk basin, with one just to the east of Bella Dale Slack on Black Dike Moor. The pit alignments are also important because they survive as extant earthworks, are of a rare form, and are associated with an important group of round barrows.
The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of four round barrows
and a pit alignment on Middle Rigg, Easington High Moor.
The pit alignment was first noted by Young in 1817 who interpreted the remains
as an ancient British pit village. Canon Atkinson investigated one of the pits
in 1848 and found it to have a stone floor 1.2m-1.5m below the level of the
surrounding ground surface. In 1864 Atkinson returned to part excavate one of
the four round barrows. Elgee reinterpreted the pit alignments as an
unfinished cross dyke in 1930 and in 1993 the area was surveyed by the Royal
Commission on the Historic Monuments of England who identified it as the best
surviving example of a particular form of pit alignment, a segmented embanked
pit alignment. Three of the four round barrows form a roughly north west to
south east line on the part of Middle Rigg known as Three Howes Rigg. All
three barrows show signs of antiquarian excavation, but each has a significant
proportion of the original volume of the mound surviving undisturbed. The
north western barrow is just over 20m in diameter and stands 1.5m high. The
middle barrow is centred 45m to the ESE and is 17m in diameter and 2m high.
The third barrow is centred a further 50m to the south east, is also about 17m
in diameter and stands to 1.2m in height. The middle barrow has a north-south
trench cut through its centre. This is thought to have been dug in 1864 by
Atkinson, who found two cremation burials. The first was about 6m from the
centre of the mound and was associated with a small cup, fragments of other
pieces of pottery including those from a large Bronze Age urn and four worked
flints, one being an arrow head. Within 0.5m of the mound's centre there was a
second small cup with more cremated bone, worked flint and a 32mm long lump of
The pit alignment on Middle Rigg runs approximately parallel to the line of
three barrows, about 120m to the north east. It is in two main sections,
slightly offset from each other, with the 23m gap between the two sections
lying opposite the central barrow. Each section of the pit alignment is
further subdivided into segments, with each segment typically having between
two and four pairs of pits flanked to the NNE and SSW by a pair of banks. Each
segment is divided from the next by a slight change in direction, or a small
break in the flanking banks. The two lines of paired pits are typically
centred 10m apart and are up to 3m in diameter with the banks 12m to 18m apart
and up to 1m high. The western section of the pit alignment is 138m long and
includes 34 pits arranged in four shorter segments. The eastern section is
115m long and has 30 pits divided between five segments.
The fourth round barrow is centered 60m to the south east of the south eastern
end of the pit alignment, with the line of the pit alignment forming a tangent
with the northern side of the barrow. This barrow is more complex in earthwork
form than the other three in the group. It is a 13m diameter squat mound
placed centrally on a circular platform which has an outer lip 0.1m to 0.2m
high. The base of the platform is 22m in diameter, with the lip 0.5m above the
surrounding ground surface. The whole barrow is sited on slightly sloping
ground so that it is 1m high when measured on the north western side and 1.6m
high on the south eastern side.
The four round barrows associated with the pit alignment on Middle Rigg have
no discernible ditches around them, but excavation of other barrows has shown
that even where no encircling depression is discernible on the modern ground
surface, ditches immediately around the outside of barrows frequently survive
as infilled features, containing additional archaeological deposits.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994), 74
Lofthouse, C A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Segmented Embanked Pit Alignments in the North York Moors, , Vol. 159, (1993), 383-392
Ordnance Survey Record Card, Ordnance Survey, NZ 71 SW 11, (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