Neolithic Round Barrow
Duggleby, West of Kirby Grindalythe, North Yorkshire OS Map Ref SE88056690
OS Maps - Landranger 101 (Scarborough), Explorer 300 (Howardian Hills & Malton)
Duggleby Howe barrow looking northwest on a snowy February 29th 2004
Duggleby Howe is one of the largest round barrows in Britain but it is unusual in that unlike most round barrows that date from the Bronze Age, this mound was constructed in the preceding Neolithic. It stands just east of the B1253 road to the south of the village of Duggleby and about 300 metres from the source of the Gypsey Race, an intermittent stream that was the focus of much prehistoric activity in the Great Wold Valley. Built with an estimated 5000 tons of earth, clay and chalk the barrow was constructed in several phases before finally attaining a diameter of around 38 metres and a height of over 6 metres, its flattened top suggesting it was levelled slightly for the building of a post mill in historic times.
The first examination of the site was undertaken by the Rev Christopher Sykes in the late 18th century who seems to have left no record of his findings but it was J. R. Mortimer's excavations in the summer of 1890 that really put Duggleby Howe on the archaeological map. Before the construction of the barrow came the digging of a pit about 2.7 metres deep into the ground surface in which the body of man was placed, possibly in a wooden coffin along with a middle Neolithic 'Towthorpe' bowl, two flint cores and some flint flakes. Above him were found the bodies of another adult as well as a child and single skull with the lower jaw missing, the skull having what Mortimer described as a 'suspicious looking circular hole' which may have been the cause of death. A further adult body seems to have been laid on top of the filling of this grave accompanied by an antler mace head, a broken arrow head and end-polished flint axe or adze. A short distance to the east was a second shallower grave which contained the body of an adult along with some transverse arrowheads, beaver teeth, boar tusks and a bone pin. A further adult body was laid between the two graves accompanied by a remarkably thin polished flint knife only 1.5mm thick.
The burials were then covered in a low mound of earth in which Mortimer discovered the bodies of a further adult, an adolescent and three children as well as several sets of cremation remains. The mound was then extended by covering it with layer of chalk rubble into which more cremated bone was placed, in total 53 cremation deposits were found although as the entire site was not excavated Mortimer estimated the total number may have been double this. This mound was then capped with a layer of clay effectively sealing the burials and cremations and a further thick layer of chalk rubble piled over it to create the final barrow form. This may have been the final act in the building of the barrow but finds of pottery sherds, shears and bones in the upper chalk layer suggest it was partly reused for burial during the Anglo-Saxon period.
Aerial photography in recent years has shown that Duggleby Howe stands in the centre of a large circular enclosure consisting of a wide inner ditch, a narrower outer ditch and a series of causeways. The diameter of this enclosure is around 370 metres - it is now all but ploughed out and silted up but parts of it are still visible on the satellite image below as are the ring ditches of a handful of round barrows just within and outside of the enclosure towards the east. There is some uncertainty as to whether the earthwork represents a causewayed enclosure or a henge or even if it is contemporary with the barrow itself, however it is possible that it was dug at the same time as the first phase of burials as a way of demarcating a sacred area.
See also the similar barrow of Willie Howe or the Great Wold Valley introduction page.
Google Earth image of Duggleby Howe at the centre of a large ditched enclosure
(crop marks of ditch shown as a dashed line on inset image).
Mortimer's section drawing of Duggleby Howe from 'Forty years researches in British and Saxon burial mounds of East Yorkshire' published in 1905.
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