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Update on Whitehorse Hill Cist excavation

Whitehorse Hill landscapeAll the stones of the recently excavated Whitehorse Hill cist have now been replaced in their original location on northern Dartmoor by Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Archaeology, Conservation Works and Ranger teams.

Following its discovery in August 2011, the base stone of the cist, on which the burial deposit lay, was removed and driven to the Wiltshire County Conservation Service laboratory in Chippenham.  It was then painstakingly excavated by micro excavation (ie dug in 2cm spits). The rest of the cist stones were left on site, and just before Christmas, with the help of a MOD all terrain vehicle, the base stone was returned to Whitehorse Hill. Using the plans made during the excavation and the expertise of the Works Team the cist was rebuilt.

The micro-excavation of the contents of the cist has now finished and a programme of assessment of theWhitehorse Hill Cist rebuild finds has now begun. This will include assessment of the leather and textile objects, the animal hide, the samples taken for their pollen, fungal spores and the human bone and charcoal. Radio carbon dating will also begin on the organic objects, the cremated human bone and the wooden stakes.

For the first time on Dartmoor this will be by using the newly refined computer system known as Bayesian Chronological Modelling. This has the ability to refine the dating system to within two and a half decades rather than two and a half centuries - transforming our understanding of pre-history.

Whitehorse Hill Cist beadsAll the beads will be taken to Cardiff University to be X-rayed. This will better identify their shape and composition - some beads are still concealed within a ‘bag’.

The unparalleled range of materials and their surprisingly good survival, plus the spectacular nature of the beads, all indicate that this was the burial of someone of importance. The finds will all undergo analysis, conservation and interpretation before they go on display.

Jane Marchand

Senior Archaeologist


Page last updated: 22 Feb 2012
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