People of the Heath

Principal investigator: Robert Banbury
Level: Archaeology society project

This four-year project is focussed on a remarkable but little-known prehistoric monument complex on the edge of Petersfield Town dating to the Early Bronze Age, between 2200 and 1500 BC. Although designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, the large group of barrows (burial and ritual monuments) spread across Petersfield Heath has seen no active research since it was mapped in the 1930s and there is no record at all of any past excavations. Yet it is one of the most impressive and diverse barrow cemeteries to have survived in south-east England, boasting at least 21 monuments representing five or six different types. An unknown number of barrows are no longer discernible, having been lost to development, erosion and scrub growth. The size and diversity of the Heath complex invite comparison with better known barrow cemeteries in Wessex, for example, those well preserved around Stonehenge. This begs a host of questions about why the locality became important in this period and the extent to which it was influenced by developments in other regions.

Bronze Age barrows are well known to be repositories of the dead and, because burials can occur almost anywhere within and around such monuments, it is possible that we will encounter some during the project. However, finding burials is not a primary objective. The project is more generally about the People of the Heath – those who designed, constructed and venerated these lasting monuments; it is about how the barrows were built, in what sequence, and what they meant to the community; furthermore, it is about where the people lived, what food they grew, how they utilised their environment and what impact they had on it. In addition, though, this is a project for the benefit of the modern People of the Heath – the present-day Petersfield community that nurtures and enjoys this special and focal landscape.

For details, see

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  • Created: 5 years ago
  • Created by: Sam Moorhead

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