A Short Passage of Time: the Dating of the Hazleton Long Cairn Revisited



Meadows J, Barclay A & Bayliss A (2007) A Short Passage of Time: the Dating of the Hazleton Long Cairn Revisited. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 17 (S1), pp. 45-64.

Forty-four radiocarbon results are now available from the Hazleton North long cairn, and are presented within an interpretive Bayesian statistical framework. Three alternative archaeological interpretations of the sequence are given, each with a separate Bayesian model. In our preferred model the cairn is considered to be a unitary construction, following on from the pre-cairn midden and other activity after a short interval during which the site was cultivated; bodies of the recently dead were subsequently interred in the chambered areas. Further human remains were deposited in the entrances to the chambers slightly later in the Neolithic, after the primary phase of use of the cairn for burials. This model suggests that the cairn was constructed in the first half of the 37th century cal BC, and that its primary use for burial lasted for only two or three generations, ending probably in the 3620s cal BC. A second model which varies only in postulating continuity between the pre-cairn activity and the cairn itself has poor overall agreement, suggesting that this interpretation is improbable. The third model explores the possibility that some of the human remains (those where the deposition of intact corpses cannot be strongly inferred from the archaeological record) may have been curated for a considerable time since death when deposited in the tomb. This interpretation suggests a slightly later date for the construction of the cairn, in the middle decades of the 37th century cal BC, and suggests that any human remains which were not interred as corpses were less than a century old when deposited. The correspondence between the bones most likely to be ‘ancestral’ and those most likely, on archaeological grounds, not to have been deposited as intact corpses is poor, however. For this reason we feel there is no clear evidence that the human remains at Hazleton were not deposited shortly after the deaths of the individuals concerned, and we prefer model 1.

Hazelton; radiocarbon dates; long cairn;

Cambridge Archaeological Journal: Volume 17, Issue S1

FundersEnglish Heritage
Publication date28/02/2007
Publication date online30/01/2007
Date accepted by journal04/10/2006
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)

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Professor Alexandra Bayliss

Professor Alexandra Bayliss

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

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