Thursday 11 August 2022

Bowls Barrow also known as Boles Barrow - Colt Hoare's Description from Ancient Wiltshire


In this ride I shall ascend the hills at the back of Sir William A'Court's demesne, and proceed over Nanny Down towards Bowls Barrow. At the upper end of Heytesbury field and near the summit of the hill, is a flat barrow ploughed over, which Mr. Cunnington opened in 1800, and found about a foot under the surface, a layer of flints that extended nearly over the whole tumulus, intermixed with fragments of thick and coarse pottery; and was much surprized in finding ten small brass Roman coins of the Emperors Constantine, Valentine I. and II. and Arcadius, together with some pieces of the fine red Samian pottery. From the discovery of these articles, viz. first, the rude pottery, and afterwards the fine Samian ware, and coins, we may conceive this to have been occupied both by the Celtic and Romanized Britons.

On the summit of the hill we meet the great track-way, and crossing it come to a large tumulus named BOWLS BARROW; its length is one hundred and fifty feet at the base; its width ninety-four feet, and its elevation ten feet and a half, though it appears to the eye much higher; the broad end points towards the east. This large barrow was opened by Mr. Cunnington in 1801, and attended with much labour. He began by making a section of considerable width and length across the barrow near the east end, and at the depth of two feet nine inches found a human skeleton lying south-west and north-east, and with it a brass buckle, and two thin pieces of the same metal. Towards the centre of the barrow, were two other skeletons interred, with their heads towards the south, and one of them lying on its side. The interior parts of the barrow were composed entirely of white marl stone to the depth of four feet and a half: this was succeeded by a ridge of large stones and flints, which extended wider as the men worked downwards. At the depth of ten feet and a half, which was the base of the barrow, was a floor of flints regularly laid, and on it the remains of several human bodies deposited in no regular order. It appeared therefore, that they had been thrown together promiscuously, and a great pile of stones raised length-ways along the centre of the barrow over them. This pile (in form like the ridge of a house), was afterwards covered with marl excavated from the north and south sides of the barrow, the two ends being level with the plain. Although four men were employed for three days, they could not explore more than the space of about six feet by ten; yet in this small portion they found fourteen skulls, one of which appeared to have been cut in two by a sword. It is rather singular, that no fragments whatever of pottery, charred wood, or animal bones, were found in the course of the above operations.

At a subsequent period Mr. Cunnington made a second attempt on this tumulus, by opening more ground both at the east as well as west end; at the former he found the heads and horns of seven or more oxen; also a large cist close to the skeletons; but owing to the great height of the barrow, and the large stones continually rolling down upon the labourers, he was obliged to stop his operations.

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