The Ropley Grave text

The Weekend Wanderers have visited this field at Ropley at least twice a year for the past eight years now. It was a great surprise that this huge field behind the cow shed on the hill turned up some significant archaeology in the form of a late Iron Age/ early Roman cremation burial.

You can see in the picture to the right that the stubble has been cut pretty high but this didn't put off club member Kevin Joyner from enjoying his day. A delighted Kevin is happily going over a spoil heap with his Deus detector

Past digs on the slopes of this field have turned up  occasional Iron Age staters with fairly regular Roman coins finds at the top of the slope where the field levels off. This field is pretty vast though and we have not found any signs of early occupation here before that is until now!

Even though the stubble was long, Kevin's Deus gave a loud clear target so he decided to investigate the rather large object. Closer inspection revealed the curved shape of what at that time may or may not have been a pot rim. Erring on the side of caution, Kevin correctly called for a second opinion on what the object might be and if this may be of archaeological interest.

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The small gathering up on the hill draws attention and others walk over to see what has caused so much interest. By now it is apparent that this discovery is not farm yard junk and by careful examination of the large non-ferrous target, Kevin ascertains that this is looking increasingly like the copper alloy rim of a vessel. Procedure in the club is to cordon off a broad area to protect the site and call in an archaeologist for their opinion.

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The nearest available archaeologist was called and so it was that Surrey archaeologist David Williams promptly turned up that afternoon with his assistant and confirmed that this was indeed an important discovery.

Careful reduction of the surrounding fill reveals that we are looking at a single cremation burial. It was noted that no skeleton remains were present and at this stage it seems possible that this may be a solitary burial.


Now that the overburden has been removed, a full excavation can now begin so David Williams seen here kneeling, studiously examines the site and notes the presence of pottery along with several copper alloy fragments presumably from the base of the bowl. 


This interesting ceramic object turns out to be one of a pair of pedestal beakers albeit now fragmented through decades of ploughing.

It also appears that a ditch of possible medieval origin has been cut through the earlier grave site thereby causing damage to the grave goods.

One of the pedestal beaker fragments and a bag full of broken pottery sherds completes the excavation.

The farm owners came over and were intrigued by the fact that an ancient burial was here on the family run farm and on a field that they had worked for generations.


The finder of the Ropley Pot Assemblage (as I like to call it) Mr Kevin Joyner turned up at the field sometime in the morning. Certainly after I had arrived. Having set up his Deus metal detector all I know from then on is that he had obviously worked his way up to the top of the ridge, and whilst there, picked up a signal beneath the plough soil which required further investigation. When it became apparent something may be of importance buried there' he then very wisely stopped digging and contacted other wanderers who then proceeded to help excavate the signal until the metal rim of a large bowl started to appear! As this was now considered archaeologically sensitive'  the FLO was then contacted (David Williams) to carry out the primary excavation; the whole of the dig I managed to photograph in detail.
The find was subsequently recorded by David Williams in The Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report 2013 on page 24, where it is described as a Late Iron Age copper-alloy bowl from Ropley, Hampshire (SUR-8EA776) found in association with a fragmentary pair ceramic pedestal beakers and cremated human bones; the latter was originally deposited within the bowl. The profile of the vessel is typical of Rose Ash type bowls of Southern Britain, rather than the deeper rounded bowls of northern British tradition.

Article and above photographs kindly sent in by Jeremy De Montfalcon


Link to PAS page here: https://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/q/SUR-8EA776