Monument record MDR6602 - Neolithic long cairn (site of), Whitwell Quarry, Hodthorpe and Belph

Type and Period (1)

  • (Early Neolithic - 4000 BC to 3001 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Possible long barrow near Whitwell Quarry observed in 1988, excavated by Bassetlaw Heritage Project and Creswell Crags. Quarrying operations at Whitwell, Derbyshire, exposed archaeological features in a section of overburden. Investigations revealed the presence of both collective and single inhumations within a complex multi-phase Neolithic long cairn. The long cairn within the quarry (SK532748) was located just below the summit and on the western side of the limestone ridge, between the villages of Creswell and Whitwell. Its long axis followed the contour of the slope, at approximately 90 metres above sea level. Initial investigations in 1988 comprised cleaning and recording of the section, subsurface survey in the neighbouring field, and the excavation of a trial trench adjacent and parallel to the southern half of the section. This confirmed the existence of three drystone walls, packing between the walls, and a palaeosol preserved beneath the structure and wall tumble. A flint flake, a human tooth, and a bone fragment were recovered. However, the stratigraphic contexts of these finds was unclear and they could not be taken as conclusive proof that the site was a barrow. Nor could they furnish dating evidence. Further investigation was required. On the basis of the subsurface survey, which identified a particularly stony area adjacent to the quarry section and coinciding with a slight swelling, an area 12 metres by 13 metres was uncovered to define the northern and western limits of the site. No further excavation was possible that year. In 1989 further funding was provided by Derbyshire County Council, and a programme of excavation resumed. The objectives were: to recover stratigraphic details; to define and understand the function and phasing of the structure; to obtain a date for the site. It was only with this renewed phase of excavation that the first real evidence of human interment came to light, upon the removal of a central baulk. Further funding was obtained, from English Heritage, and a complete excavation of the site undertaken. All bones were removed, artefacts recovered, and data collected in order to understand the phasing and stratigraphic relationships, and to provide an indication of date. All features were excavated totally, furnishing a final ground plan which shows a double circular wall and cairn associated with a single inhumation between two pits; a collective inhumation, also between two pits and associated postholes; inner and outer trapezoidal drystone walling, with a passage leading from the exterior to the collective inhumation; a stone supported cairn; and, finally, wall tumble and collapse. Samples were collected for a series of environmental analyses including sediment, pollen, and molluscan studies. (1) Radiocarbon dates on human bones: 1. 3 bones from crouch burial 659. Calib. 5380 +/- 90 bp 2. Bone from chamber 957 W92A. Calib. 5190 +/- 100 bp 3. Human long bone (chamber). Calib. 5115 +/- 70 bp. (2) A damaged Neolithic cairn was located during archaeological survey on the edge of a limestone quarry on the outskirts of Whitwell in Derbyshire in 1988. The remains of the monument were completely excavated in advance of further quarrying. The monument proved to be the rear portion of a trapezoidal long cairn with a complex structural sequence which included collective mortuary deposits and also encapsulated a single inhumation contained within an oval cairn. A full report of the excavation has now been published, together with a re-assessment of the radiocarbon dates and several post-excavation analyses. A sequence of seven phases of activity have been identified, which extended over a period of between 120 and 270 years in the middle part of the fourth millennium BC, with subsequent disturbance to the cairn some 1500 years later, in the Early Bronze Age. It is clear that mortuary activities at Whitwell began at more or less the same time as those at cairns in southern England. The Neolithic finds comprise the remains of seventeen individuals together with Carinated Bowl pottery and lithics which include a notable series of arrowheads found with the skeletal material. (3)

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <1> Unpublished document: Wall, I. 1990. The Excavation of a Neolithic Long Cairn at Whitwell Quarry, Whitwell, Derbyshire.
  • <2> Verbal communication: Brown, A (English Heritage). 1995. Whitwell Cairn radiocarbon dates.
  • <3> Article in serial: Vyner, B & Wall, I. 2011. 'A Neolithic cairn at Whitwell, Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 131, pp 1-131.



Grid reference Centred SK 531 748 (58m by 95m) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR2929

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Record last edited

Jun 12 2017 4:44PM

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