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Archaeologists recording the previously found Bronze age cist burial at the Whitehorse Hill site.  Source: Courtesy of Dartmoor National Park Authority via Devon Live

Potential Bronze Age Burial Chamber Discovered on Dartmoor


What appears to be a Bronze Age burial chamber has been unearthed on Dartmoor, promising to deepen our understanding of Devon's ancient history. This discovery, potentially dating back 4,000 years, echoes the importance of the 2011 find at Whitehorse Hill (shown), which provided unprecedented insights into the early Bronze Age lifestyle.

Excited Anticipation of What Has Been Found

According to a Devon Live report, the latest find on Dartmoor has captivated historians and archaeologists alike. Found in a secluded area to prevent tampering, the site's exact location remains undisclosed. The discovery was made possible due to peat erosion, revealing what appears to be a cist—a type of ancient coffin used during the Bronze Age.

Dr. Lee Bray, a leading archaeologist involved in the excavation commented, "We have every potential for this to be something quite special,…. We don't know for certain if this is a cist, but it certainly looks like one. All the evidence we have points to it being a cist from the early Bronze Age,” reports Devon Live.

Bray highlighted the cist's potential significance, likening it to the Whitehorse Hill find, which was identified as the resting place of a young woman from around 1700 BC. Also discovered on Dartmoor, that find attracted international attention for the insights it provided into Bronze Age life, and a video depicting how the woman’s life might have been gained much interest.

Challenges of Preservation

The potential burial chamber should have a good state of preservation, due to its peat-laden environment, which would keep the contents—including possible artifacts and organic materials like clothing—exceptionally well-preserved. The Whitehorse Hill burial was preserved in this manner, and precious artifacts including the pelt of a brown bear, 200 beads, a copper alloy pin, and a variety of other grave goods were discovered, explains the Dartmoor National Park page.

However, the peat is also a source of concern as it is subject to erosion, posing a risk to the integrity of the archaeological site. Dr. Bray mentioned three potential approaches: leaving the site as is, which risks further degradation; attempting to halt the erosion, which may not fully protect the contents; or excavating the site to safely analyze and preserve the materials found, which is the popular choice.

The Road to Discovery

The decision to excavate has been met with enthusiasm, underscored by the Dartmoor National Park Authority's commitment to fund the project with £90,000 from its reserves. Given the site's challenging location, far from accessible roads, specialized equipment such as helicopters and laser scanning tools are necessary to safely remove and transport the burial chamber.

This project is not just a significant step for local archaeology but also a potential boon for the broader historical community, offering a rare glimpse into the lives of those who walked these moors thousands of years ago.

The discovery of the Bronze Age burial chamber on Dartmoor marks a thrilling chapter in the ongoing exploration of Devon's historical landscape. With each layer of soil and peat removed, we inch closer to unraveling the mysteries of our ancient predecessors, providing not just academic insight but a deeper connection to our past.

Top image: Archaeologists recording the previously found Bronze age cist burial at the Whitehorse Hill site. Source: Courtesy of Dartmoor National Park Authority via Devon Live

By Gary Manners

Gary Manners's picture


Gary is an editor and content manager for Ancient Origins. He has a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of York and a Diploma in Marketing from CIM. He has worked in education, the educational sector, social work... Read More

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