A HISTORY OF SURREY the interment belonged to the transition period between the neolithic and bronze ages. Judging from the character of the pottery, it is not difficult to identify several fragments which have been found in other parts of Surrey as belonging to the same period. Other tumuli of the neolithic age, or possibly of that of bronze, have been noted at Crooksbury Hill, in Farnham parish, Scale, Elstead, Tatsfield and Whitmore Common, in Worplesdon parish. The tumuli at Whitmore Common which were excavated by the late Lieut. -Gen. Pitt-Rivers were of the bronze age, and yielded several interesting urns, which are now preserved in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford. One of these, by the courtesy of Mr. Henry Balfour, is here figured. Remains, or rather traces, of neolithic dwellings have been dis- covered at more than one locality in Surrey, and as examples of the very earliest evidences of artificially constructed dwellings in the kingdom and for many other reasons they are of very great interest. The sites selected for habitation in the neolithic age seem to have been always such as were naturally well drained. The summits of hills or the sides of valleys were the favourite situations. In the numerous small depressions called hut circles, which are now found on the surface of the ground in Surrey and other parts of England, we see all that remains of the dwellings in which neolithic families lived. These hut circles generally occur in clusters, but sometimes singly. The depres- sion in the ground is surrounded by an annular mound composed of the removed earth, and is generally broken at one point where the entrance to the hut was situated. The construction of this mound was probably the first step towards making a neolithic house. The next step was to build over the hollow a kind of beehive hut made of intertwined branches. In the case of the smaller dwellings this was accomplished without difficulty, but where the hut was made upon a large scale with a diameter of 20 feet or upwards, a conical mound in the centre is generally found, and this was apparently intended to receive a central support, such as the stem of an uprooted tree. The object of making the depression in the surface of the ground was obviously to procure sufficient headroom and some degree of warmth, and the encircling mound was evidently intended to throw off the rain which fell upon the roof of the hut. The inflammable character of such a structure as this rendered it impossible to have within the hut such a fire as would be necessary for cooking purposes without incurring a great danger of setting the whole dwelling alight. The cooking fire was therefore made outside the hut 1 at a convenient and safe distance from it. Remains of such fires have been found in exactly this relation to the floors of neolithic dwellings, 2 and from the marks of great heat and the amount of charcoal found 1 W. Boyd Dawkins, Early Man in Britain, p. 273. 8 G. Clinch, ' Prehistoric Man in the Neighbourhood of the Kent and Surrey Border, Neolithic Age,' Journal of the Anthrofihgical Institute, n.s. ii. 127, 134. 236
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/286
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.