A Beaker/food Vessel Assemblage from the Northumberland Cheviots

Article excerpt

The Northumberland Archaeological Group has, since 1993, been excavating elements of a multi-period landscape on Wether Hill, overlooking the Ingram Valley (Topping & McOmish 2000). In 1998/ 99 a pit was excavated comprising three main phases:

Primary Beaker phase. The pit (maximum dimensions 1 [multiplied by] 96 m E-Wx1 [multiplied by] 34 m transversely, and 0 [multiplied by] 70 m deep) was excavated and lined with oak planking held in place by stone packing. An ?inhumation(s) deposit accompanied by two Beakers was placed in this `coffin', which was then sealed by a timber lid before backfilling. A small cairn may have been constructed. (NB No burnt bone was discovered within the coffin; phosphate analysis will shed some light on the presence of human remains). Three [sup.14]C assays derived from the `coffin' produced dates of:

3740 [+ or -] 70 BP/2335-1935 cal BC at 2[[Delta].sup.1 ](Beta-124785)

3675 [+ or -] 55 BP/2201-1886 cal BC at 2[[Delta].sup.2]] (AA-35524 (GU8646))

36704 [+ or -] 50 BP/2199-1890 cal BC at 2[[Delta].sup.2](AA-35523 (GU8647))

Although there is reasonable concordance, the problem of the potential longevity of the oak necessitates caution (the carbonized timbers comprised no complete radii).

The pottery from this phase comprised a rusticated Beaker and a second Beaker, a comb-decorated vessel. Both have local parallels.

Secondary food vessel phase. The pit was reopened and the `coffin' compressed, breaking the Beakers. A `cist'-like stone lining of alternating coloured andesite slabs was inserted into the pit. Again any burial(s) did not survive. A ?burial deposit was accompanied by three Food Vessels and then re-sealed.

The Food Vessels are, first, a small bipartite vase; the second a ?tripartite form; the third too fragmentary to reconstruct. All had local parallels. During analysis of the small bipartite vase a carbonized cereal grain, subsequently identified as straight hulled barley (Hordeum sp.), was discovered embedded in its fabric. This seed produced an AMS assay of:

3550 [+ or -] 50 BP/2020-1745 cal BC at 2[[Delta].sup.3] (Beta-139947)

Further archaeobotanical analysis discovered an assemblage of 6 charred grains and 10 seed impressions, primarily of barley but also indeterminate species. The seeds/impressions are located throughout the fabric and may represent a grain temper.

Iron Age disturbance. The final phase represents an episode of later Iron Age disturbance, broadly contemporary with adjacent palisaded enclosures and dated by (unidentified) twig charcoal to:

2200 [+ or -] 60 BP/390-60 cal BC at 2[[Delta].sup.1] (Beta-124784)

Discussion

The depositional history of this pit records the periodic reuse of an established ?burial location which remained a visible monument through to the Later Iron Age. The presence of Beaker ?inhumation(s) in a timber coffin places this burial, nationally, in a minority. …