Ancient Monuments

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An unenclosed Iron Age urnfield and associated remains on Rackham Hill, 900m SSE of Rackham Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Parham, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9032 / 50°54'11"N

Longitude: -0.5039 / 0°30'14"W

OS Eastings: 505295.563996

OS Northings: 112586.871467

OS Grid: TQ052125

Mapcode National: GBR GK0.CDN

Mapcode Global: FRA 96TQ.CHZ

Entry Name: An unenclosed Iron Age urnfield and associated remains on Rackham Hill, 900m SSE of Rackham Farm

Scheduled Date: 9 November 1961

Last Amended: 24 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015721

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29257

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Parham

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Parham St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes an unenclosed urnfield dating to the Iron Age, which
also contains an associated, contemporary enclosure, situated on a chalk ridge
which forms part of the Sussex Downs. The urnfield is represented by a pair of
north east-south west aligned grave mounds, the most prominent of which lies
to the south west and has a roughly circular, uneven mound c.12m in diameter
and up to 0.75m high. Records suggest that the mound, the edge of which has
been partly disturbed by modern ploughing, is surrounded by a now infilled
construction ditch up to c.1.5m wide. The grave mound was investigated in
1929, when a centrally placed cremation burial and associated fragments of an
Iron Age cinerary urn were discovered.
The second grave mound lies c.46m to the north east and has a circular mound
c.9m in diameter and up to c.0.3m high, surrounded by an infilled construction
ditch c.1m wide. Further, associated unmarked burials are likely to survive in
the areas between and around the grave mounds.
The associated enclosure, interpreted as a contemporary ritual monument, lies
between the grave mounds and survives as a roughly east-west aligned, raised
sub-rectangular platform measuring c.12m by c.10m. Part excavation in 1929
revealed that the central area is paved with large flint nodules. The platform
is enclosed by a low bank up to c.0.5m high and c.6m wide, surrounded by a
`v'-shaped ditch. The ditch has become infilled due to the encroachment of
modern ploughing onto the southern periphery of the enclosure, but will
survive as a buried feature up to c.4m wide. Long term use of the long
distance bridleway which runs along the ridge just to the north of the
monument has removed most of the northern bank and ditch of the enclosure,
and this area is therefore not included in the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Unenclosed Iron Age urnfields are burial grounds without a delimiting boundary
comprising two or more cremations. Most contain less than ten graves, although
examples with up to 455 burials have been discovered. Contemporary inhumation
burials have also been found in some urnfields. They represent a return
to the predominance of the cremation burial rite during the Late Iron Age,
from the mid first century BC up to (and beyond) the Roman Conquest of AD 43.
The similarity of British examples to contemporary continental urnfields and
the occasional presence of imported, high status grave goods, or objects
deliberately buried with the body, provide evidence for the gradual
assimilation of south eastern Britain into the Roman world. The cremations
were often placed in wheel thrown pottery vessels deposited in graves dug into
the subsoil or bedrock, and usually exhibit few visible surface traces,
although some burials marked by low, circular grave mounds are known.
Contemporary inhumation burials have also been found in some urnfields.
Although the cemeteries are unenclosed, excavation has shown that within
larger examples, groups of burials were sometimes placed in originally
embanked, sub-rectangular enclosures.
In Britain, unenclosed Iron Age urnfields are found exclusively in south
eastern England and form a rare class of monument. Less than 50 have been
positively identified, although this is considered to be only a small fraction
of those which originally existed. They represent one of a restricted range of
monuments dating to the Iron Age and, as such, constitute an important source
of information about the social structure, beliefs and economy of the time.
All examples with surviving remains are considered to be of national
The unenclosed Iron Age urnfield on Rackham Hill survives well, despite some
damage by modern ploughing and bridleway use, and has been shown by part
excavation to contain important archaeological and environmental evidence
relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. The
monument is particularly unusual in that it includes rarely surviving
earthwork components, and is one of very few known Iron Age burial sites on
the Sussex Downs. The urnfield forms one of a dispersed group of broadly
contemporary monuments situated along the ridge, providing important evidence
for the relationship between burial practices, settlement and land division in
this area of downland during the later prehistoric period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Curwen, E, Allcroft, A, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Rackham Bank and Earthwork, (1932), 182-186
Curwen, E, Allcroft, A, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Rackham Bank and Earthwork, (1932), 183-186

Source: Historic England

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