Oval barrow

An oval barrow is the name given by archaeologists to a type of prehistoric burial tumulus.

In the British late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, oval barrow use may indicate a transition between earlier long barrows with multiple burials and the later, more individual round barrows around the centuries either side of 2000 BC.

They normally contain a number of burial pits, containing crouched inhumations and evidence of Beaker grave goods. Often a stone cairn was raised over the top with an earth barrow covering that, using material excavated from a surrounding oval-shaped ditch. The ditches appear to have been dug in sections and are not always symmetrically oval. Signs of shafts being dug into the barrow are known and these may have been for the removal and re-insertion of remains. At least one other example indicates burials taking place over a long period, with each successive inhumation being buried at 90 degrees to its predecessor.

The overall diameter of the barrow is around 10 m. Examples are known in Yorkshire, Oxfordshire and East Kent.


Bradley R. (1992), The excavation of an oval barrow beside the Abingdon causewayed enclosure, Oxfordshire, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society vol.58

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