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Maiden Castle, Dorchester

Nature volume 140, pages 677678 (16 October 1937) | Download Citation



Two discoveries are announced at the close of the season's excavation of Maiden Castle, Dorchester, by the Society of Antiquaries and the Dorset Natural History and Archæological Society under Dr. R. E. Mortimer Wheeler and Col. C. D. Drew. The first is that of a long barrow of remarkable size, no less than eight hundred feet long, overlying the neolithic town, of which the remains have been identified at various points in the eastern part of the site. Evidently the village must wholly, or largely, have ceased to be occupied when this enormous tomb was constructed. Consequently, as is pointed out by Dr. Wheeler, according to a report in The Times of October 11, the discovery is of importance. The superposition of the neolithic barrow over the earlier neolithic town will make it possible to classify the successive phases of neolithic civilization in this part of Britain with greater precision than is possible at present, and it will thus afford a standard of chronological comparison for the interpretation of other neolithic settlements and mounds in this part of the country. The second discovery, which was made not far from the point at which the dismembered neolithic skeleton, previously reported, was found, was that of the grave of a Saxon warrior of the early part of the seventh century. Its importance lies in the fact that the body had been interred with full battle equipment. A scramasceax or cutlass-knife lay across the thighs, and two knives and the remains of a spear-head were by the side. The burial is one of the few found in England which include this type of sword, commonly held to be a characteristic weapon of the Saxon tribesmen. The end of this season's work at Maiden Castle closes the fourth and final year's excavation of the site as a joint undertaking by the two societies ; and the trenches are now being filled in. Excavation will, however, be continued on a small scale for some time to come.

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