Duggleby Howe – Neolithic Barrow

Location

Duggleby Howe or Howe Hill is one of the largest round barrows in Britain. It sits above the village of Duggleby on the southern side of the Great Wold Valley, just next to the B1253 and close to the source of the Gypsey Race. There is no signpost to the site and there is no footpath. However, if you follow the field boundary and avoid stepping on the farmer’s crops you can walk to the base of the Howe. The last time I visited there were no crops in the field, just lots of sheep. There is an indistinct path that leads to the top of the Howe.

The views from the top of the Howe over the surrounding countryside are quite extensive.

The Great Wold Valley is one of the widest valleys of the Yorkshire Wolds and running along it is an intermittent stream, the Gypsey Race. This runs from its source near Wharram Le Street, east along the valley, reaching the sea at Bridlington.

Siphoning actions in underground reservoirs affect the Gypsey Race and it floods at times that are inconsistent with recent rainfall. This ‘magical’ property is possibly why there are so many Neolithic sites close by. In Neolithic times there was lots of activity in the Great Wold Valley. Neolithic sites in the valley include the Monolith at Rudston, and burial mounds at Willy Howe, Duggleby Howe and Wold Newton.

About the Howe

Excavations at Duggleby Howe have found lots of artefacts. These are consistent with other late Neolithic period sites. The mound itself is 37 m in diameter and 14 m high. The top was probably levelled slightly in Medieval times. Construction of the barrow was done in several phases and used an estimated 5,000 tons of earth, clay and chalk. The mound consists of a chalk mound covered by a layer of clay and an outer chalk capping. As a chalk structure, it would have strongly contrasted with the surrounding landscape and have been visible from some distance.

Fairly recent aerial photographs revealed that the barrow has two ring ditches that date from the Bronze Age.

Excavations of the site have found the remains of a number of bodies, cremations, flint arrowheads, a bone pin, flint flakes, and various other implements formed from animal tusks and teeth.

The initial excavation found a shaft grave. At the base of the grave, was an adult male in a crouched position. The remains were accompanied by a bowl, flint cores and flakes.

Some archaeologists think that the site was used as a cemetery over a long period of time. Others have suggested that the many burials may represent a sacrifice to mark the death of a powerful figure, maybe the individual found at the base of the original shaft grave.

A post mill, an early type of windmill, sat on the mound in medieval times.

The paper Recent Research at Duggleby Howe contains much more information about the site.