The South Dorset Ridgeway is full of lumps and bumps in the ground. Many of these are ‘barrows' and can be seen from a distance, most are the result of human burial.
Within the Ridgeway area 17 long barrow sites are known. These are usually mounds of earth with a stone or wooden burial chamber at one end. Many of the Ridgeway long barrows have been ploughed away but two stone chambered ones have survived. They were in use for about 1,000 years in what is called the Neolithic period, some 5-6,000 years ago.
In 2007 English Heritage, with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers undertook a geophysical survey of Long Barrows in the South Dorset Ridgeway Area.
This stone chambered long barrow near Portesham was moved and restored in the 19th century.
A more impressive long barrow, over 20 metres of the mound has survived behind the single burial chamber, made of sarsen stones.
There are three of these mysterious long earthen mounds in the Ridgeway area. There use is unknown, but they must have been impressive sights in there day, 5,000 or so years ago. The sites are also associated with later monuments
195m long and 20m wide, the barrow makes an important statement at Martinsdown , alongside the present A35 Bridport to Dorchester road.
Long before this hill was constructed into a hill fort a bank barrow was built along its top. Around 545m long the barrow is still visible in the centre of the site.
This bank barrow is about 180m long and the site now includes a group of Bronze Age Round Barrows.
Around four and a half thousand years ago a major change in society and burial practices seems to have taken place. Long barrows and communal burials were abandoned and the emphasis seemed to shift towards individual burial sites. The now familiar round barrows began to appear all along the ridge, and are one of the distinctive features of the Bronze Age. There are several types, including bowl, pond and bell. The barrows were built over a thousand years, roughly from 2600BC to 1600BC. Sometimes the barrows were centred on the earlier long and bank barrows, suggesting that these sites were still important. Many of the barrows were re-used with later burials added to the original one in the centre.
In the early barrows a beaker was often placed with body, and other objects have been discovered, including gold items, diggers and beads. There are several important barrows or groups along the Ridgeway including Clandon Barrow, Bronkham Hill Barrow Cemetery, Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrow Cemetery.
This is one of the most important barrows in the Ridgeway area. A bowl barrow, it was partially excavated in 1882 by Edward Cunnington. He discovered a cremation burial within an urn, a copper dagger, shale mace head, bronze ring and gold plate. The finds are similar to those discovered at Bush Barrow south of Stonehenge. Recent geophysical surveys by Bournemouth University as part of the South Dorset Ridgeway Heritage Project have produced some interesting results. For more information download this short description 'Identifying the Wessex Culture: a geophysical anaylisis of the Clandon aggrandised barrow' 641.73 Kb
An interesting group on top of the ridge, east of Blackdown. A survey by Bournemouth University in 2008 indicates the cemetery may date from the early Bronze Age.
This is an unusual group of barrows situated in a valley bottom. There are at least 44 barrows here, either side of what is now the A35 road. See also the site on the English Heritage website.