From Neolithic ceremonial sites such as stone circles and stone rows to the large number of Bronze Age hut circles, field systems and burial sites dotted throughout the landscape – there are few other places where the remains of our prehistoric ancestors are as evident as they are on Dartmoor.
The moor contains over 200 known cists, or burial chambers, of varying sizes and shapes. 90% of them have their long sides orientated in a NW/SE direction but the reason for this, like so many others things from this time, remains a mystery.
Whitehorse Hill is situated on a remote part of northern Dartmoor on a high moorland ridge over 600 metres above sea level.
In 2011 the excavation of a stone burial chamber there turned out to be the most significant archaeological discovery in over a century.
Analysis of the finds within the cist revealed that it contained the cremated remains of a person aged 15-25 years old, believed to be a female.
The cist also contained the remains of a bear pelt, a ‘sash’ made from leather and textile, a beautifully woven basket, over 200 beads, two pairs of wooden studs, a flint tool and this delicate braided woven band with 32 tin studs.
Classified as Treasure in 2018 due to its age and metal content, it’s most likely an armband or bracelet. Investigations revealed that the carefully woven strands of fibre used to craft it are cow hair.
The band originally had 35 studs. Only the holes survive for three of them and in several more cases only a small part of the stud is present.
Many of the studs are heavily corroded and have lost much of their surface. The best-preserved examples show they were around 4.1mm long, around 3mm at their broadest point, and around 2.2mm at their narrowest point.
The studs are set evenly and closely along the band, starting approximately 9mm from a bobble-like terminal at one end. The other end is not present and may have decomposed.
Although incomplete the band is in an exceptional state of preservation given its age and was obviously made with considerable expertise.
This is a close up of one of the tin beads also discovered in the cist. It would have originally had a high sheen and was probably part of a Bronze Age necklace.
Tin was a precious commodity during the Early Bronze Age and evidence of its use to create such decorative objects is very rare.
These are the earliest examples of tin objects to ever be found on Dartmoor. Along with the other finds from the Whitehorse Hill cist, they provide a rare glimpse into the personal and prized possessions of someone who lived on the moor nearly 4,000 years ago.