Saturday, September 15, 2012

Loftus - Street House neolithic burial

Saxon Jewellery
Street House Anglo Saxon Cemetery
Loftus, North Yorkshire a slightly nondescript town, near the coast between Skinninggrove and Whitby and not far from the Boulby Mines.

There are times when history takes you by the throat and shakes you, today I came across a  Saxon princess grave from the 7th century that  had been excavated earlier on in this decade, it was a 'bed burial' (only 12 such exist up to the present time in this country)  several rather beautiful brooches were discovered in the grave.   Saxons are far and few up in North Yorkshire and it is supposed that she had married a local man.

The Wossit Barrow/ritual enclosure

Then on delving deeper came across this Neolithic cairn which was overlaid by a Bronze age round barrow, which is unusual but, anyway to me, fascinating, this long history of burial on one site.  There is not much to see though I note on an old map that a tumulus was marked on this farm.

An Early Neolithic cairn and mortuary structure overlain by an Early Bronze Age round barrow. Excavated in 1979-81, a shallow plough-damaged earthwork circa 6 metres in diameter proved to represent a multiphase Neolithic funerary/mortuary monument. An east-facing timber facade fronted a narrow mortuary structure set between low banks of clay and stone. Behind the mortuary structure was a sub-rectangular enclosure defined by a stone kerb and containing two paved areas. The latter is interpreted as a mortuary enclosure, used for the initial laying out of the dead prior to deposition within the mortuary structure itself. The latter contained the fragmentary burnt remains of several individuals. The facade comprised near-contiguous timber posts. The largest at the centre, directly in front of the mortuary structure (another post setting occurred at its rear). Most of the Neolithic pottery recovered came from the upper fills of this facade trench. In front of the facade were traces of two rows of post holes, possibly representing an avenue approach or other structure. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the monument was constructed in the early to mid 4th millennium BC. Subsequently, the whole monument was converted into a single low trapezoidal cairn by the extension of the mortuary enclosure kerb as far as the facade, and the addition of cairn material over the whole monument behind the facade. The timber elements were burnt, and subsequently unburnt timbers were removed. In the Early Bronze Age, funerary or related practices immediately preceded the construction of a kerbed round barrow over the eastern half of the long cairn. Despite plough-damage, four collared urns and an accessory vessel represented secondary cremations inserted into the mound. Two of the collared urns were associated with Grooved Ware sherds. A deposit of circa 20 jet buttons was inserted into the tail end of the long cairn. The flint assemblage included some possibly Mesolithic items.


  1. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    You have just made me remember why I love archaeology so much : ) Off to explore your links now, and re-read this a few times to get the synchronicity right in my mind.

  2. Well there isn't much synchronicity in my account, but found it utterly amazing about the high class burial. She was a contemporary of Saint Hilda, and then what were all those Saxon doing so far north, and seemingly just one generation of them in the cemetery, must be a story there.....

  3. An advantageous marriage perhaps, or a ruling family granted lands there? It seems strange that the use of the cemetary is so short-lived, and seems to consist only of the family and its followers.

    Saxons did go straight into Yorkshire and Teeside from their home country - perhaps in this case they were certain of a welcome? What a shame that the acidic soils left no bodily remains, as strontium analysis would have told us a lot.

    I am still pondering the jet beads in the tail of the burial mound - presumably from the Bronze Age too, but perhaps added much later, in the same way that Stonehenge was used by later peoples to give relevance to their dead.

  4. Hi Jennie, thought I would get a book on the subject, but they are so expensive.. Years ago read John Blair on the British small kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, which is now Northumbria, it was a Kent Saxon princess that converted the north to christianity I believe.

    Beads are quite common in B/A burials aren't they I know according to Sabine Gould that beads were found on St.Davids Head at the Warrior Dyke promontory fort, which is so out of the way from everywhere. Must have had a great importance to their presumably female owners..