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Leven Bronze Age Cemetery

Now largely overtaken by a modern housing development at Sillerhole on the northern edge of the town of Leven in Fife, the Leven Bronze Age Cemetery was an archaeological site of national importance. A grave was discovered in a field here in 1944 as a the result of ploughing and left open for local people to examine. Hence when professional archaeologists from the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh arrived six months later to examine the site, all they found were a few bone fragments and a jet bead. Subsequently the site was almost forgotten.

In 2002, following proposals to build the houses here, a field survey suggested there were archaeological remains and a full-scale excavation was undertaken. This involved a collaboration between Fife Council's archaeologist, Channel 4 television's Time Team, a commercial archaeological survey company and local people. Eleven early Bronze-Age cyst burials were discovered, together with human skeletal remains and rare pottery food storage vessels. The site seems to represent a lengthy period of use. A single cremation burial is Neolithic (5-6000 years ago). The site developed into a significant cemetery in the early Bronze Age date (c. 2000 BC) with a sizeable stone-lined burial chamber - this was the grave discovered in 1944 - found to contain a single young male of 10-15 years of age. This was surrounded by an enclosure ditch, within which a further five stone-lined graves were placed surrounding the central burial, each richly-endowed with grave goods. Four further burials took place to the south of the site around 1500 BC, but these were of simpler construction and less well-endowed. Amongst these graves were four complete and two broken food vessels, representing most important collection of this rare type of early prehistoric pottery so far excavated in a single cemetery context.

The sixty-eight person TIme Team were involved for five days, with the other partners continuing the dig for a fortnight after their departure.


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