How old is Marlow?

Archaeology In Marlow have been keeping tabs on a recent archaeological investigation. The 46 page report has now been published, revealing that two young individuals were buried in Marlow around 4,500 year ago! A summary of the findings follow.

In Spring 2013, Northamptonshire Archaeology, now MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) Northampton, were commissioned by Talmage Homes, to conduct an archaeological excavation on a site to the rear of 90 High Street, Marlow. The investigation was headed by Simon Markus whose team discovered some amazing artefacts during their excavations.

Local historians will know that the earliest recording of the town of Marlow dates from 1015AD, where it is referred to as Merelafan in the Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxonici.

In March 2013, an area of approximately 200 sq.m. was opened up within which, a pit, dated to the mid 12th century, contained a pile of approximately 250 re-deposited bones, radiocarbon dated to a much earlier date.

90 High St 2

Photo’ courtesy of MOLA Northampton

In addition, amongst the remains was a piece of Bronze Age (Beaker) pottery, which was probably from a pot buried with the bones, as well as medieval finds from the 12th-14th centuries.

When the 250 bones and fragments from the skeletons were examined, it soon became apparent that the remains appeared to be those of two youngish individuals fairly close in age. Those bones that could be assigned as a specific skeleton were recorded as a full skeleton and the individuals were labelled ‘Skeleton 1’ and ‘Skeleton 2’.

Skeleton 1 was an older juvenile (10-12 years) based on the condition of teeth and bones at the time of death. Skeleton 2 was also close to that age (10-11 years). Due to the age of the remains, it was not possible at this time to determine the sex of each individual.

The discovery of Bronze Age pottery raised the possibility that the bones might be from a Bronze Age burial, and likely a barrow (burial mound), which was disturbed around the 12th century AD. Bone samples from the two identified individuals were sent to the USA for radiocarbon dating. The skeletons were found to date from approximately 2030 BC (between 2140 and 1950 BC), making them Early Bronze Age in date.

 The single piece of Bronze Age (Beaker) pottery, weighing 12g, is decorated with bands of multiple horizontal lines of comb impressions, flanking a single surviving narrow zone, 10mm wide, which contains a saw-tooth pattern also formed from comb impressions.

90 High St 3

Photo’ courtesy of MOLA Northampton

An aerial survey (Lidar), around the barrow cemetery at Low Grounds Farm, identified the site as a possible island on the Thames. This would mean that the High Street burials would have been separated from the Farm by a section of the Thames. They are, however, at a similar height (within 2m) and so the High Street burial may represent an outlier to the Low Grounds cemetery. As this cemetery has been dated by form only, it is unknown whether the two sites were active at the same time.

So, it looks like people lived in Marlow well before Anglo-Saxon times and that Marlow was a ‘des res’ around 4,500 years ago!

Many thanks to MOLA Northampton; article written by John Laker for Archaeology In Marlow (AIM) using extracts from the MOLA report.

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