Probable Bronze Age cairn or funerary monument overlooking the Derwent Valley on Curbar Edge
Between the trackway running above Curbar Edge and the Edge itself, lies a low mound or cairn within which a few gritstones can be seen. This is all that remains of the probable burial site of someone who lived in the Bronze Age, sometime between 2000 BC and1500 BC. Excavated by Mr E Peat (the Duke of Rutland’s gamekeeper) in 1913, the cairn was roughly circular, about 18.5m x 15m in diameter, made from gritstone with a gritstone kerb and possibly a central gritstone cist (stone box) containing the remains of those buried there. Such cairns were often built in elevated situations surrounded by hills, and this one appears to have used a natural outcrop to enhance its height and scale.
Evidence linking the monument with burial and the Bronze Age came from fragments of cremated bone and pottery food vessel(s), a broken Bronze Age knife and a flint scraper. A little way to the north of the mound lies a system of fields and enclosures, demarcated by low earthworks, which have also been dated to the Bronze Age.
Prehistoric burial cairns, barrows or tumuli can be found all over Britain, surviving where land has escaped industrial, urban or other development. Many were constructed from the Neolithic (about 3500BC) onwards, generally consisting of a mound of earth and stones enclosing one or more burials, sometimes surrounded by a ditch. These burials might be accompanied by grave goods, such as pottery, weapons, tools or personal adornment, perhaps celebrating the deceased’s role in life, or their achievements, or to equip them for the after-life. Compared to the likely population, only some people appear to have been buried in this way, possibly earning such distinction through their military prowess, healing or shamanic abilities.
Some burial cairns sit in isolation, others cluster together near prehistoric monuments, such as henges or stone circles, or over-look natural features, such as river valleys. Bronze Age burial cairns tend to lie away from settlement or agriculture. Maybe the living wanted their ancestors nearby, for ritual purposes, to assert ownership of the land, or to consult on important matters; but not too close, in case the dead troubled the living.
OS grid reference: 425492 375599.