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Mortuary enclosure 900m NNW of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

A Scheduled Monument in Newnham, Bedford

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.1404 / 52°8'25"N

Longitude: -0.407 / 0°24'25"W

OS Eastings: 509113.532268

OS Northings: 250322.05859

OS Grid: TL091503

Mapcode National: GBR G21.ZW3

Mapcode Global: VHFQ8.WGPH

Entry Name: Mortuary enclosure 900m NNW of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007324

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20749

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Newnham

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cople

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Details

The monument includes a rectangular enclosure initially recorded from aerial
photographs and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook,
south-east of Bedford. The monument is visible on aerial photographs as an
approximately square enclosure surrounded by a ditch which measures 30m east-
west by 30m north-south. A causeway, 2.5m wide, is situated on its eastern
boundary. A trial trench was excavated in 1990 which revealed that the ditch
was U-shaped in section, approximately 0.5m in depth and varied between 2.7m
and 0.75m in width. Postholes were identified with the enclosure.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Neolthic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes date to the period between c4000
and c700 BC. Typically they are set within topographically defined areas,
perhaps between rivers or valleys, and sometimes their topographical
boundaries are emphasised by ditch systems. Within the defined area such
complexes comprise closely spaced groups of features of different types, later
types of features often being superimposed on earlier ones, indicating
continuity of use over a long period of time.
Features found on such sites include round barrows, which can take a variety
of forms, of which bowl barrows are the most common. Such barrows were earthen
or stone mounds covering a burial or group of burials. Such barrows were
usually surrounded by a circular ditch from which material for the
construction of the mound was obtained. These circular ditches are often
visible through aerial photography when the mound no longer shows as an
earthwork and are frequently classified as 'ring-ditches'. Burials on such
sites, however, are not confined to the barrows and 'flat-burials' have often
been discovered in between them. Also found on such sites are a variety of
enclosures, sometimes referred to as morturary enclosures. There are often
square or rectangular in plan but round-ended and even sub-circular examples
are known. They are usually defined by a bank and external ditch and sometimes
have opposed entrances. Their original function is uncertain but it is
presumed that they were employed in the burial ritual and in subsequent
commemorations.
Neoltihic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes often also include other classes
of ceremonial monuments such as cursuses (which were elongated embanked
enclosures which probably served as ceremonial routeways) and henges (which
were major circular earthworks which probably served as gathering places.
A small number of such complexes have individual components surviving as
earthworks but the majority are cropmark sites which are known from aerial
photography and which survive only as buried features below the ploughsoil.
They provide important evidence for the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst Early Prehistoric communities and all examples where
significant archaeological deposits remain are considered to be of national
importance.
Partial excavation of the mortuary enclosure 900m NNW of Octagon Farm has
confirmed its location and demonstrated the survival, in good condition, of
important structures and deposits below the ploughsoil. Only a small part of
the monument has been affected by the trial excavation and the major
proportion of significant archaeological deposits will survive intact. The
ditches and other features within the monument will retain archaeological
information and environmental evidence relating to the monument and to the
landscape in which it was constructed. The site is of additional importance
because of its association with the large mortuary complex 50m to the south.
It will provide additional information regarding the continuity and evolution
of Prehistoric funerary practices in this area.

Source: Historic England

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