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The Bronze Age


Cinerary Urn, Palmerston



A large cinerary urn with no decoration, with straight sides near rim with inward curve below, then tapers to a narrow flat base. The urn is orange coloured with a fine grained matrix.


In 1930 a contractor levelling a field between Terregles Street and Glasgow Street in Dumfries noticed some fragments of pottery. Further investigation revealed a Bronze Age cemetry of perhaps six metres in diameter, with an area of blackened soil and wood ash. Several urns and pigmy cups were also found. All the urns were different with some plain, others decorated, and some pygmy cup.


The three largest were found inverted. Examination of the contents implied that after cremating the body, the bones, together with soil and stones were scraped together and packed into a container, possibly of linen. The urn was then placed over this container. Some of the bones showed green staining, perhaps indicating that they had been in contact with something bronze. It is possible that this site was used only once, perhaps after a single disaster which resulted in several people being killed.


Unlike neolithic people who usually buried their dead communally in chambered tombs, Bronze Age people preferred to bury their dead singly. During the early part of the period people were usually buried in a crouched position in stone cists, but later cremation was preferred with the remains interred in urns like these. They created cemeteries by burying several urns at one site, sometimes marking it with a cairn or mound of earth and stones. The urns were often buried upside down. They were decorated with twisted cord or string impressions and incised and impressed oval, circular and diamond shapes.

Place of Discovery:
Palmerston Park
clay & red clay
height: 305 mm diameter (base): 90 mm diameter (rim): 260 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
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