When the amateur metal detectorists Matthew Hepworth and David Kierzek stumbled upon a chisel and other well-preserved Bronze Age objects in February 2013 near Morecambe Bay in northwest England, the lucky finds—unusual for the region—led to an even rarer and more significant discovery: an undisturbed Bronze Age burial mound, or barrow. The remarkable monument, resembling a small hill, was presumably used for around 1,500 years, from the Late Neolithic period to the Middle to Late Bronze Age, according to initial research.
On 14 March, the London-based archaeology crowdfunding platform DigVentures launched its “Barrowed Time” campaign to fund a dig of the site
planned for 4-17 July this summer. It has been more than 50 years since a similar dig of a Bronze Age barrow has been carried out in this part of England, where such finds are less common than in Southern and Northeastern regions.
Copper-alloy socketed chisel and fragment of a copper alloy dagger found by metal detectorists at the site of the previously unknown barrow, dating to the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Credit: Stuart Noon
The exact location of the barrow is “top secret”, DigVentures’ website says—no doubt to keep amateurs with less scruples than Hepworth and Kierzek at bay. “Matthew and David have been praised for having contacted the local authorities before digging further,” a spokeswoman for DigVentures said over email. In June of 2013, the pair alerted the Bronze Age expert Stuart Noon, an officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, to the discovery. The scheme, sponsored by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, encourages amateurs to report archaeological findings in England and Wales so that professionals can lead excavations.
But by making a £165 “Dig for a Day” donation, members of the public will be able to take part in the dig under the watchful eye of Bronze Age specialists like Noon and Ben Roberts, the former Bronze Age curator at the British Museum. The organisation will also live-stream the excavation and run a headquarters and pop-up museum on Morecambe Promenade in Lancashire, where donors of all denominations are invited to volunteer in the Archaeology Incident Room. So far, more than £4,000 of the £12,500 goal has been raised, with 88 days to go until the 10 June deadline. The Heritage Lottery Fund has also pledged £49,500 to the project.