Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Cursus, long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch and other associated cropmarks 700m east of Netherexe Barton

A Scheduled Monument in Nether Exe, Devon

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7895 / 50°47'22"N

Longitude: -3.504 / 3°30'14"W

OS Eastings: 294082.066195

OS Northings: 99956.584781

OS Grid: SX940999

Mapcode National: GBR LH.ZN3B

Mapcode Global: FRA 37K0.6Q3

Entry Name: Cursus, long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch and other associated cropmarks 700m east of Netherexe Barton

Scheduled Date: 6 November 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014144

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22340

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Nether Exe

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Rewe St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

This monument includes part of a cursus, a long mortuary enclosure, ring ditch
and other associated crop marks, representing associated buried archaeological
remains, situated on a gentle west-facing slope overlooking the valley of the
River Exe. The cursus survives as a clearly defined cropmark in the form of
an elongated rectilinear ditch forming an enclosure measuring at least 188m
long by 23m wide. At the south western end the two long lengths of surviving
ditch come together as a rounded terminal. The north eastern end of this
cursus is no longer visible and therefore the original length of the cursus is
not known at present. A circular ditched feature with a diameter of 8m is
visible within the cursus. This may represent a Bronze Age burial monument.
The long mortuary enclosure lies 18m south west of the cursus and survives as
a 60m long and 14m wide oval-shaped enclosure surrounded by a ditch. A gap in
the north eastern circuit of the ditch represents an original entrance.
The ring ditch lies a short distance to the NNW of the long mortuary enclosure
and survives as a 15m diameter circle of enhanced crop growth. This feature
represents a circular gully and is the ditch from which material was quarried
during the construction of a now plough-levelled round barrow. Other linear
cropmarks in the area north and west of the cursus probably represent an early
field system. Fieldwalking of this monument has revealed a significant number
of Neolithic flint implements of a type generally associated with ritual
sites.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A cursus is an elongated rectilinear earthwork enclosure whose length is over
250m and whose proportions are such that the long axis is more than ten times
the short axis. The sides are usually defined by a bank and external ditch,
but occasionally by a line of closely-set pits. The two long sides run
roughly parallel, and may incorporate earlier monuments of other classes. The
function of cursus monuments is not known, although they are presumed to be
ritual or ceremonial monuments. About 40 cursus monuments are currently known
in England and these are widely scattered across central and eastern areas.
They were constructed and used throughout much of the Middle and Late
Neolithic period (c.3000-2400 BC) making them amongst the earliest field
monuments to survive in the modern landscape and one of the few known
Neolithic monument types. They are representative of their period and, as few
examples have been excavated, they have a particularly high value for future
study with the potential to provide important evidence on the nature and
variety of beliefs amongst prehistoric communities. Due to their rarity and
longevity as a monument type, all cursus monuments are considered to be of
national importance.
In addition to the cursus, a long mortuary enclosure survives within the area
of the scheduling. Long mortuary enclosures are oblong-shaped areas of land up
to 150m in length, bounded by narrow, fairly straight ditches on all sides,
with slightly rounded corners, and containing an open space edged by a
perimeter bank set just inside the ditch. Characteristically, there are two or
more major causeways across the ditch which served as entrances. The function
of long mortuary enclosures is not known with certainty though they are
generally interpreted as ceremonial monuments of Early and Middle Neolithic
date (3200-2500 BC). They are extremely rare with only about 35 examples known
and these are widely scattered through southern and eastern England. Many long
mortuary enclosures lie adjacent to other ritual and ceremonial sites of
Neolithic date including henge and cursus monuments, and occasionally are
found together in small groups. They are particularly representative of their
period and, as few examples have been excavated, they have a high value for
future study with the potential to provide evidence on the nature and variety
of beliefs amongst prehistoric communities.
The ring ditch lying within the area of the scheduling, probably represents a
plough-levelled bowl barrow. Bowl barrows are funerary monuments dating from
the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging
to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds,
sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either
in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials
in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in
size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial
practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally
(many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland
Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic
element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and
longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of
beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They
are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion
of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.
Despite limited damage as a result of ploughing, the cursus, long mortuary
enclosure, ring ditch and other associated cropmarks 700m east of Netherexe
Barton together form an unusual complex of related early prehistoric features.
Important information concerning the relationship between the different
components of this monument survives and should provide evidence concerning
Neolithic ritual activity in western Britain.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24 - 25
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24
Griffith, F M, 'Antiquity' in Aerial Reconnaissance In Mainland Britain In The Summer Of 1989, , Vol. 64, (1990), 24 -25
Other
Devon Air Photo Project, Devon Air Photo Project - Mapping SX9499, (1993)
Frances Griffith, (1993)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.