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02.08.2021

A Bronze Age cremation cemetery

Fifty years ago, in 1966, an excavation began at Calis Corner, Kimpton, that proved important to the country. We owe much of this discovery to the landowner William Flambert, whose lifelong interest in archaeology enabled him to determine the significance of a portion of the field in which the plow had repeatedly snagged compacted flints. He invited the Andover Archaeological Society (AAS) to conduct the study. The Society was formed in 1964 in response to the increasing destruction of the sites as a result of the redevelopment of Andover into an "overflow" town.

In 1966, AAS was headed by Max Dacre, who was initially given one month to complete the research in Calis Corner before the fall plowing began. The work was done on weekends with volunteers, and it soon became clear that the site deserved closer attention. The deadline was gradually extended until the work was completed in 1970. Thorough scientific excavations brought AAS recognition from the archaeological community, and the results were published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society in 1981.

At Calice Corner, the AAS discovered a Bronze Age cremation cemetery that had been in continuous use for 1,500 years. It was also preceded by Late Neolithic activity. The site is only ten miles east of the Wessex Neolithic henge monuments of Woodendge and Darrington Walls, and to the south of it runs Harrow Way, an important prehistoric road linking Wessex and Kent. Nearby is the Kimpton Mound Cemetery, and it has been suggested that these two sites were part of a broader mortuary landscape in the Bronze Age (Stoodley 2013).

As mentioned, the earliest activity at this site dates to the Neolithic, centered on three large sarsen stones that may have appeared here naturally. Burial activity began at the site in the Early Bronze Age (2000-1500 BC) when several cremations were placed in deep pits. This was followed by the erection of a circle of small sarsen stones on a flint platform, together with a platform for the fire where cremations were to take place, as well as 22 urns covered with flint shells (only six of which contained cremated remains).

It was during the Middle and Late Bronze Age (1500 - 600 BC) that the greatest activity took place. A large platform of flint was accumulated, in which cremation burials were inserted. This platform was extended four times, and different types and phases of burials were identified. For example, Stoodley suggests that the presence or absence of flint kirps over burials in this period may reflect a change in "fashion" in funerary practice. The five distinct clusters of burials may represent family groups, while the range of ages and genders represented and the paucity of associated artifacts suggest an egalitarian community with no pronounced social hierarchy.

What is noteworthy is that the site was apparently used continuously for such a long time: the use and reuse of fire sites, methods of burning and crushing bones, and platform construction techniques were all consistent over a long period of time.

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