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Bekesbourne Grave 45

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posted on 10.11.2021, 14:48 by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
The next, and last, tumulus (which is that which I said, at page 145, was in the parish and manor of Adisham), stands about forty paces to the northward of the last mentioned; and as near as I can guess (for I forgot to measure its diameter), about thirty paces eastward of the road. It is low, but broad. The grave, which was cut very neatly and exactly out of the rock chalk, was full five, feet deep; it was of the exact shape of a cross, whose legs pointed, very minutely, to the four cardinal points of the compass; it was every way eleven feet long, and about four feet broad. At each extremity was a little cove, or arched hole, each about twelve inches broad, and about fourteen high, all very neatly cut, like so many little fireplaces, for about a foot beyond the grave, into the chalk; they were not exactly level with the legs, but sunk a little lower.[1] In that at the western extremity were many wood coals and ashes. In the north cove was much rotten wood, which, from its grain, appeared to have been oak. In that toward the south were several large and small iron nails. In that toward the east was a slender iron pin, or piece of wire, about two inches and a half long. The bones were almost gone; indeed they were scarcely discernible; the coffin had not passed the fire, and appeared to have been pretty thick. In getting down, we found six dentes molares, or grinders, of a horse, as we thought; they were remarkably long; as also the sherds of a large, coarse, black ossuary, or bone urn, and of two smaller ones of bluish earth; a small iron stud, the head about half an inch broad; and several oyster shells. One half of this cross-like grave had certainly been opened before, namely, from west to east; but not effectually, for the remains of the coffin, and what was to be seen of the bones, plainly appeared to have never been disturbed. Perhaps, however, the opening I mention may have been as long ago as the interment of the person whose remains we found at the bottom. The north and south legs of this cross, however, did not appear to have been dug into, nor did any of the coves seem to have been examined. The sherds of the ossuary certainly (as I have observed before) shew the original use of this place as a burying ground to be of very remote antiquity.[1]The unusual form of this grave would suggest the question as to whether it may not have been constructed at two different periods. It is one of those complications of facts which require the most careful eye, and the most experienced judgment, to unravel; and the solution of which may mainly depend upon some fact, which even a cautious explorer like Mr. Faussett may pass over. For instance, the fragments of the large urn which he mentions, but which he gives no sketch of, were probably marked with some peculiarity which would have decided its Celtic or its Roman origin, and, consequently, that of the grave. It was evidently Mr. Faussett's impression that this grave was originally of a cruciform shape; and there is, under any point of view, nothing to shew that the skeleton did not belong to a Saxon interment. Some of the graves in Bourne Park [see site report for Bishopsbourne] were furnished with small chambers cut in the corners of the graves, apparently as receptacles for some fragile or perishable substances.- C.R.S.

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