A profusion of Barrows
The People of the Heath survey of prehistoric barrows in the Rother Valley region, West Sussex & Hampshire
One major objective of the People of the Heath project, hosted by Petersfield Museum, is to put the project’s focal site, Petersfield Heath, into its regional context. Petersfield Heath is home to one of the most impressive cemeteries of Early Bronze Age barrows in south-east England yet had been neglected and remained poorly known prior to our community-based project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and South Downs National Park Authority (2014-18). Even less well known is the fact that this cemetery sits within a landscape rich in barrows and barrow cemeteries. Past excavations across Britain show that the great majority of these round barrows belong to the Early Bronze Age, circa 2200 – 1500 BC, during which period one of their main functions was to commemorate the dead. Round barrows represent Britain’s very first ubiquitous and lasting ‘building project’; they had an enduring impact on local landscapes across large swathes of the country.
At the start of the survey, some 280 barrows – certain, probable or possible – were on record for the Rother Valley and its enclosing ring of hills, a modest area covering 520km2. After three winter seasons of fieldwork by a team of dedicated volunteers, this record has been expanded dramatically to well over 500 sites. This is a concentration with few parallels even in Wessex, a region famous for dense distributions of barrows on the chalk downland. Compared to many other regions, the Rother Valley also stands out in that the vast majority of recognised sites are still visible earthworks; very few are totally levelled sites known only because cropmarks pick out their buried encircling ditches.
The seminar will outline the methodology adopted by the team, including the transformational use of Lidar, an airborne laser-beam technique which records the ground surface in great detail. It will present a range of case-studies on barrow groups in different parts and environments of the region. The ensuing discussion will explore how the data gathered can be analysed to ask questions about the Bronze Age communities responsible for these monuments.
This is an opportunity for all interested parties to join the discussion about how the People of the Heath Regional Barrows Survey contributes to our understanding of the function of barrows and barrow building, and the demography of this region around 4000 years ago.
The seminar will take place at Petersfield Town Hall, Rose Room, 2-5pm on Wednesday 14th June. Although there is no charge for this event, it is essential to pre-book to be sure of a place. Tea will be available mid-session. The Town Hall has a paying carpark which is also used by shoppers. It is therefore advisable to arrive in good time.
If you wish to reserve a place(s) at the seminar, please send the name, email address and telephone number of all attendees to Katherine West, Petersfield Museum via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01730 262601.