Archaeological excavations at CEMEX’s Kingsmead Quarry in Berkshire, not far from Windsor, have revealed a rare ‘Beaker’ burial of ‘Copper Age’ date (2500-2200 BC). The burial represents an unusual and important find as the remains were those of a woman and within the grave were some gold ornaments.
This follows the find at Kingsmead of four Neolithic houses which date back over 5,700 years, unprecedented on a single site in England.
Dr Stuart Needham, a leading expert on Copper Age metalwork, who is presently studying the gold ornaments said: “Beaker graves of this date are almost unknown in South East England and only a small number of them, and indeed in continental Europe, contain gold ornaments. The tubular beads that were found at Kingsmead Quarry are certainly rare in Britain.
The burial contained the remains of a woman who was at least 35 years old. At the time of her burial, she wore a necklace containing small tubular sheet gold beads and black disc beads of lignite - a material similar to jet.
A number of larger perforated red amber buttons/fasteners were also found in the grave, positioned in a row along the body. They may indicate that the woman was wearing clothing, perhaps of patterned woven wool, at the time of her burial. Further lignite beads from near her hands suggest that she may have been wearing a bracelet.
Most early Beaker burials are found to contain male skeletons. It would appear that according to their religious beliefs, they were buried in a crouched position with the head resting to the north and facing east. However, with women the body position is often reversed with the head to the south, as at Kingsmead.
This woman of importance was found with a large drinking vessel, unusually placed on her hip rather than by her feet or shoulder. The fine pottery vessel had been decorated with a comb-like stamp.
Gareth Chaffey, Site Director, Wessex Archaeology who has been excavating the site for the last seven years, said: “It is interesting to think who this woman was within her community. She was probably an important person in her society, perhaps holding some standing which gave her access to prestigious, rare and exotic items. She could have been a leader, a person with power and authority, or possibly part of an elite family - perhaps a princess or queen. This gives the grave tremendous importance”.
The ornaments found within the grave are all the more interesting when it is considered where they came from. The gold may have originated from Southern England or Ireland, the lignite beads from Eastern England and the amber buttons/fasteners from as far away as the Baltic or made from amber collected from the east coast of England.
The excavations are part of CEMEX’s £4 million archaeological programme on the site, which has been in operation since 2003. “Kingsmead Quarry has given us some wonderful finds, rare and interesting ones like this Beaker burial and the Neolithic houses. Today, as well as an insight into the lives of our ancestors, the site is providing valuable building materials for construction, “comments Andy Spencer, Sustainability Director.
For further information contact Elizabeth Young, email: Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org telephone: 01932 583214
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- Beaker using communities lived across Europe around 2,500 BC around about the time of Stonehenge. In more Western regions, such as Britain, they were the first people to use copper and gold. They buried their people in special ways, characteristically with a distinctive type of pot, known to archaeologist as a Beaker. They were also buried with other fine objects such as metal, stone and bone.
- Kingsmead Quarry, sand and gravel has been quarried in the area since 1946 and it is estimated will provide 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel over the next 10 years.
- Wessex Archaeology is one of the largest heritage practices in the UK. Working all across the south and around its coast, it has won two British Archaeological Awards. http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/berkshire/Horton/index.html
- CEMEX is a global building solutions company and leading supplier of cement, ready-mixed concrete and aggregates. In the UK, CEMEX also produces asphalt, and has a significant share of the concrete- paving and block sectors. Additionally, the company is the leading supplier of concrete sleepers to the rail industry and a supplier of PFA cement additives. CEMEX has a national supply network in the UK with over 360 locations, to ensure that quality building materials are available to customers locally. For more information, see www.CEMEX.co.uk, www.CEMEX.com