Scheduled Monument: VIKING BARROW CEMETERY IN HEATH WOOD (1017561)

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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 101
Date assigned Monday, December 3, 1951
Date last amended Thursday, January 29, 1998


REASONS FOR DESIGNATION Viking barrow cemeteries comprise closely spaced groups of earthen or earth and rubble mounds covering single cremation burials. The cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time and represent the traditional pagan beliefs of the Viking communities. In contrast to the later Christian burial practice of burial in hallowed ground often around a church, pagan cemeteries were close to the settlements they served. Small, rural burial grounds often lay in sight of the settlement as a group of low mounds on poor agricultural land. The size of the cemetery can provide evidence as to the population and wealth of a settlement. The simplest graves consisted of a hole in the ground, sometimes with a coffin or hollowed tree trunk which was covered over with a low mound. It was pagan practice to bury women in costume with their jewellery, or men with weapons or tools. Each might have treasured possessions and items showing their role and status in the stratified Viking society. The poor were given nothing. The richest graves were buried in large wooden chambers or parts of boats. The Viking tradition of burying the powerful in a boat or under a ship shaped, stone setting is of great antiquity in Scandinavia. It may reflect the status of the dead and the mode of the journey to the after life. Once Christianity began to be adopted by the Vikings older pagan practices changed and were replaced by new traditions. In places this led to the deliberate obliteration of evidence of earlier practices. Possibly as a direct result of this movement few Viking burial sites are known in England. When identified they can provide important information about the beliefs and social organisation of Viking communities. They are representative of their period and any reasonably well preserved examples are considered worthy of protection. Heath Wood Viking cemetery is the only known example of its type in England. The site is well preserved and will retain vital archaeological information about the organisation, status and beliefs of the people it served. The use of the site spans an important period in Viking history and provides a vital link in the adoption of Christianity by Viking communities. DETAILS The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the Viking barrow cemetery in Heath Wood. The cemetery was in use during the late ninth to early tenth centuries AD and includes 59 barrows laid out in four spatially distinct groups. The barrows are circular or sub-circular in shape and vary in height from 0.2m to 1.4m and in diameter from 6m to 13m. Some were constructed with an encircling ditch and others without. Approximately a quarter of the mounds have been partly excavated. The excavations have shown that although cremation burials are contained within some of the mounds, others are empty. The most common artefact to be found during excavation was nails, being found in five of the 15 mounds excavated and all but one of the cremation burials. The nails represent what remained of ships planking, upon which some of the burials were laid. This was a traditional, early Viking custom and ranks the burials amongst the earliest Viking graves in the British Isles. The Viking cemetery in Heath Wood is the only known example in England. It was used at a time of instability and insecurity within the period of Viking occupation. The use of the cemetery spans the conversion from pagan to Christian beliefs. The mounds containing cremation burials are characteristic of pagan burial rites, whilst the empty mounds are thought to be cenotaph graves constructed to commemorate those Vikings given Christian burials in the churchyard at nearby Repton. The conversion to Christianity was a gradual one and certain pagan traditions continued in use during this time. Ingleby Viking cemetery plays an integral part in understanding the adoption of new cultural beliefs by the Viking communities. All fences and the surfaces of all modern trackways are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Article Reference - Author: RCHME - Title: Royal Commission survey Viking cemetery, Heath Wood - Date: 1994 - Page References: 1-28 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Author: Richards, J. D. Jecock, et al - Title: The Viking Barrow Cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbyshire - Date: 1995 - Journal Title: Medieval Archaeology - Volume: 1995 - Page References: 51-70 - Type: DESC TEXT

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1951. Scheduling Notification: Viking Barrow Cemetery in Heath Wood. List entry no. 1017561. SM Cat. No. 101.



Grid reference Centred SK 3419 2590 (299m by 217m)
Map sheet SK32NW

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Sep 12 2013 10:00AM

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