MDE1206 - Bronze Age ring cairn at Span Head (Monument)

Summary

A Bronze Age ring cairn at Shallowmead was excavated in 1977. Details of the walling were recorded, and flints, a scraper and pottery recovered. No trace of the excavation site remains.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

SS 740 363 A circular feature, provisionally interpreted as a ring cairn was found at Shallowmead, North Molton. This is in an enclosed area of rough pasture immediately above Span Head and below the ridge where the Five and Two Barrow groups are situated. A group of small mounds and associated features were about to be included in a land reclamation scheme and it was thought possible that the site contained evidence of prehistoric habitations (e.g. hut circles, which are rare on Exmoor). Full excavation of the main circular feature was carried out in 1977 by the Exeter University Extra-Mural Department, and it was provisionally interpreted as a ring cairn. The ring cairn had a 10 metre diameter enclosing a space 5 metres in diameter, the uphill side of which was covered by a platform at the height of the surrounding ring wall. The wall of the feature was largely constructed of stones wedged on edge, revetted on the outer edge by a single course of large flat laid blocks outside which and wedged up against it was another band of close set stones. A rough wall of rubble and turves defined the slight raised platform across the upper part of the interior. An area of flat and slightly worn slabs may possibly have formed an entrance. The whole structure appears to have been built in one phase as a single unit. There was no trace of a worn floor; a small patch produced stake holes, a spread of charcoal black soil (but no hearth) and some tiny potsherds. There was a scatter of late Neolithic/early Bronze Age flints, including a scraper from the soil beneath the ring wall, and two good possible whetstones with grooves were also built into the wall. The symmetrical ring structure with several interlocking construction zones is consistent with Bronze Age ceremonial sites, as is the use of white quartz for many stones in the revetment ring. The finds suggest a date of 2000-1500BC and the site might thus relate to the two and five barrow groups on the top of the ridge nearby. [1,2] Charcoal from the site was radiocarbon dated to 1110 +- 80 BC (HAR-2829). [3] SS 741 361 This area is enclosed ground on fairly steep southwest facing slopes about 410 metres above Ordnance Datum. The name Shallowmead does not appear on Ordnance Survey maps and appears to be a local field name but this was not confirmed. [4-7] SS 7411 3608 According to the interim excavation report [8] this ring cairn was originally 'a low circular feature about 10 metres across'. Grinsell [3] gives the diameter as 10 metres and the height as 'slight'. [8,3] Since 1977 the area has been drained and is now improved pasture with scattered rough grass. There is now no trace of the excavation site. The final report has not been published to date. [7] For further details of mounds and stones associated with this site see MDE1204. [9] The cairn had a kerb forming an irregular circle 8.5 metres in diameter with an outer revetment of flat laid stones and a discontinuous inner revetment of upright stones. A possible entrance 2.5 metres wide was located to the south. No evidence was found for any burial, pit or focus for the monument which was dated to the middle Bronze Age at 1501-1187 BC. Finds from the cairn included 7 pottery sherds, 2 whetstones and 15 flints, among which were 3 scrapers, 2 knives, a flake and a core. [10] This feature was fully excavated by the University of Exeter Extra Mural Department in 1977 and provisionally interpreted as a ring cairn. The symmetrical ring structure with several interlocking construction zones is consistent with Bronze Age ceremonial sites, as is the use of white quartz for many stones in the revetment ring. Sparse finds suggest a date 2000-1500 BC, and the site might thus relate to the two and five barrow groups on the top of the ridge nearby. The ring cairn measured 10 metres in diameter and enclosed a space 5 metres in diameter, the uphill side of which was covered by a platform at the height of the surrounding ring wall. A paved entrance was found on the downhill side. Constructed of stones wedged on edge with no burial or central feature. A few potsherds, some flints and two grooved whetstones were recovered. This feature is recorded in the Devon parish files as an excavation sketch plan.[8] The site was visited by the Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. [11]

Sources/Archives (11)

  • <1> Serial: Devon Archaeological Society. 1975 -. Devon Archaeological Society newsletter. 1 (Apr 1975).
  • <2> Serial: The Prehistoric Society. 1935 -. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Volume 44 (1978), 448 "Interim report" (H Miles).
  • <3> Article in serial: Grinsell, L. V.. 1983. The Barrows of South and East Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 41. p 10, 46.
  • <4> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1890, Devon, 11, 10.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1904, Devon, 11, 10.
  • <6> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1980. 1:10000 Map, 1980. 1:10000. Devon.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 12 October 1995.
  • <8> Report: Miles, H.. 1977. Excavations at Shallowmead, North Molton, Devon: Interim report.
  • <9> Article in serial: Quinnell, H.. 1997. Excavations of an Exmoor Barrow and Ring Cairn. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 55. 15-36.
  • <10> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information or Staff Comments. H Quinnell, Excavator, 17 October 1995.
  • <11> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. SS73NW19 and SS73NW21.

Map

Location

Grid reference SS 7410 3607 (point) (Surveyed)
Map sheet SS73NW
Civil Parish NORTH MOLTON, NORTH DEVON, DEVON

Finds (5)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (2)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS73NW/526
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 4548
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20170
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 73 NW21
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 35064

Record last edited

Jan 11 2017 10:54AM

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