Ancient, Two Minute Read

A Graveyard of our Ancestors – 6000 Years Old

Oakley Down Cemetery is on the Dorset/Wiltshire boarder of the Cranborne Chase. The Chase is known for its vast number of archaeological sites of major importance.

The sites include Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British sites. It is blessed with one of the largest concentrations of burial mounds in England. Added to that, is the Dorset Cursus which is the largest and longest Neolithic cursus in the country which stretches for over 6 miles.

We are fortunate to have such a high survival rate of such archaeological remnants is mainly due to the later history of the Chase.

Read More: Ancient Trackways: Walking in the Footsteps of Neolithic People

A Chase had the same purpose as a Forest – both were royal hunting grounds and as such had different laws within its jurisdiction and boundaries. Forest Law saved the archaeological sites from the plough and other destructive land uses.

The Norman kings would have galloped past these barrows that we see today in this shot. More than likely, it was also used for the same purpose by Saxon nobility. There are 30 barrows in this Neolithic and early Bronze Age cemetery, some you can see in this drone shot.

Read More: Menhirs Date From the Neolithic, But What are They?

Near the top right of the shot is a Neolithic long barrow, this barrow seems to have influence the Bronze Age peoples to create their cemetery close by. There SIX Disc Barrows here – there are only 200 in the whole of the country, so this is of major significance.

You will see at the bottom of the shot a horseshoe shaped barrow. This is actually a Disc Barrow and the bottom of it has been destroyed by the Roman road that the Romans drove straight through the cemetery. There is a mirror of his barrow on the left side of the road but is covered by trees. Again, destroyed by the Roman road.

Overview of Oakley Down Prehistoric Cemetery

Bronze Age Burial Site: Oakley Down is primarily recognized as a Bronze Age burial site, dating back over 4,000 years. It consists of a collection of round barrows, also known as tumuli or burial mounds, which were used to inter the deceased during this period.

Read More: Pingos, an Ice Age Relic Hidden

Construction and Purpose: The barrows at Oakley Down were constructed by early Bronze Age communities using the available resources and techniques of the time. The purpose of these barrows was to serve as burial monuments for important individuals, signifying their status and possibly their ancestral connections.

Burial Practices: Within the barrows, archaeologists have discovered evidence of various burial practices. These include primary burials, where the deceased were interred intact, and secondary burials, where cremated remains were placed within burial urns.

Grave Goods: Many of the barrows at Oakley Down were accompanied by grave goods, which were objects buried with the deceased.

These objects provide insights into the beliefs, social status, and material culture of the people who lived during the Bronze Age. Grave goods found at the site have included pottery vessels, flint tools, bronze jewelry, and other personal items.

Read More: The Forgotten Roman Roads

Excavations and Discoveries: Several archaeological excavations have taken place at Oakley Down over the years. These investigations have uncovered valuable artifacts, human remains, and insights into the burial practices and lifestyles of the Bronze Age inhabitants.

Preservation and Management: Oakley Down is recognized as a scheduled monument, protected under UK law to preserve its historical and archaeological importance. It is managed by government heritage organizations, such as Historic England or local authorities, to ensure its conservation and access for study and public enjoyment.

Read More: A Trip Along Watling Street, The Longest Roman Road in Britain 

The significance of Oakley Down lies in its contribution to our understanding of Bronze Age burial customs, social structures, and cultural practices. Ongoing research and archaeological endeavors continue to shed light on the site’s history and the lives of the people who lived during this ancient period.

The gorgeous example of a Roman road is the road which runs for 22 miles. It is the Old Sarum (we can say modern day Salisbury) to Badbury Rings near Wimborne, Dorset.

Read More: How Were Roman Roads Built?

The road is much wider than the normal Roman road. You can see the ditches either side of the road. The agger (embankment or any artificial elevation) 50ft wide and 6ft high – it is stunning.

Why they built such a huge road is unknown but there are many theories. It most certainly would have been seen from miles around, the same as the HS2 can be seen for miles around. It certainly would have served its purpose of moving Roman armies across the land.

What should be noted is that the Roman surveyors decided to drive their new road through the sacred ground of the existing peoples. A sign of disrespect and contempt to the social structure of the people it was conquering? The modern day A354 runs down through the shot.