Staff: Adam Gwilt and Jody Deacon [with the Groningen Dating Laboratory and Dr Jacqueline McKinley (Wessex Archaeology)]

In recent years, a technique has been developed and proven at the Groningen Dating Laboratory to achieve precise radiocarbon dates from cremated human bone. This breakthrough means that Bronze Age cremations, excavated in past decades, and now residing in the collections may be dated for the first time. This provides a valuable independent means of testing the assumptions surrounding our artefact typologies and chronologies. As a result, it will help us to write increasingly subtle prehistoric narratives about life and death in the Bronze Age.

Seven cremation samples from three barrow monuments were selected, by virtue of the quality and range of pottery and metalwork associations in the graves and also in relation to the capacity to inform the complex histories associated with barrow use and re-use. These related to barrows at Candleston Cist, Merthyr Mawr, Bridgend; Six Wells 267, Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan and Kilpaison Burrows, Pembrokeshire. The samples produced successful dates and preliminary results were communicated in a paper at a meeting of the Prehistoric Ceramic Research Group held in Cardiff (October 2005). The implications of these dates, for wider understanding of Early to Middle Bronze Age material culture and relating to barrow histories in Wales are currently being researched.