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Tyne and Wear HER(100): Houghton-le-Spring, Copt Hill, Seven Sisters Barrow - Details

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Houghton-le-Spring, Copt Hill, Seven Sisters Barrow



Religious Ritual and Funerary


Burial Cairn




A round barrow (cairn) first excavated in 1877 by Dr. Greenwell and T.W.U. Robinson, and subsequently described as 66 feet in diameter and 7.75 feet in height, made chiefly of magnesian limestone with pieces of sandstone and soil (probably remains of turf) intermixed, together with pieces of burnt limestone. The primary burial was interpreted as a Neolithic cremation, probably in a mortuary structure. There were also several Bronze Age cremations and inhumations, and a possible Early Medieval inhumation. The site is now covered by rough grassland and trees, with occasional protruding stones and rubbish, within a ploughed field and since 2000 has ben in the possession of the City of Sunderland. Public access and interpretation of the site are likely to be improved in association with the 'Friends of Copt Hill' group. A geophysical survey of the hill suggested that the barrow was encircled by ditches and suggested a possible pit alignment leading up to the barrow and several other circular and rectilinear features tentatively interpreted as ring ditches, enclosures, possible terminus of cursus, etc. However, excavation by University of Durham in June 2003 found that most of the suggested features were natural fissures in the limestone bedrock, although a complex of pits/postholes were found and interpreted as a possible pit alignment leading to the barrow. The fill of one of the pits has been radiocarbon dated to 5780-5620 cal BC, indicating a Mesolithic presence on this site. Bronze Age/Iron Age pottery was also collected. SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT.




<< HER 100 >> W. Greenwell, 1877, Excavation report, Greenwell MSS - no. 3. British Museum W. Page, ed. 1905, Ancient Earthworks, Victoria County History, Durham Vol. I, p. 363 C.T. Trechmann, 1914, Prehistoric Burials in the County of Durham Archaeologia Aeliana, 3, XI, pp. 123-30 R. Young, 1980, An Inventory of Barrows in Co. Durham, Transactions Architectural & Archaeological Society Durham & Northumberland, New Series, Vol. 5, p. 9 no. 35 R. Miket, 1984, The Prehistory of Tyne and Wear, pp. 53, 55 R. Young, 1985, The Copt Hill, Houghton-le-Spring, round cairn: a reassessment Archaeologia Aeliana, 5, XIII, pp. 7-17 I.A. Kinnes & I.H. Longworth, 1985, Catalogue of the...prehistoric...material in the Greenwell Collection - British Museum Aerial Photograph, Museum of Antiquities - - Copt Hill barrow 166.4,6 Geoquest Associates, 2001, Geophysical Survey of an area surrounding Seven Sisters Barrow... Unpublished report A.F. Harding, 2003, Copt Hill Round Barrow, Houghton-le-Spring, Interim Excavation Report A. Fletcher & J. Morrison, 2004, Unveiling Seven Sisters, a community archaeology project in Tyne and Archaeology North, No. 22, Spring 2004; A.F. Harding, 2011, Copt Hill Round Barrow, Houghton-le-Spring, Excavation Report 2003-2004

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