A Middle Iron Age settlement and an important Early Bronze Age cremation burial of a child, containing an eagle-bone pin, have been unearthed during excavations by Cotswold Archaeology experts in Oxfordshire.

The cremation burial was found, unurned, in a shallow pit alongside charcoal from the pyre. Osteoarchaeologist Sharon Clough and zooarchaeologist Matty Holmes discovered a fragment of cremated worked animal bone amongst the child’s remains. The fragment was identified as a pin, and archaeologists believe it would have been included as a pyre good. The pin had been made from the toe bone of a Golden Eagle; a discovery with no parallel in a funerary context in England. A hole in one end suggests it may have been worn with a fibre cord. “The identification of the Bronze Age cremation burial with its Golden Eagle pin is, not just in its rarity, extremely exciting. The choice of eagle bone is likely to have been significant and it is possible such an object could have been considered talismanic, or was linked perhaps with afterlife beliefs, raising further questions about its use as a pyre good for a child”, archaeologists say.

The team also found evidence of roundhouse buildings, post-built structures, and probable livestock enclosures at the site. Alongside with Iron Age pottery, an assemblage of fired clay and looweights, the findings provide an insight into the organisation of a small, local, Iron Age farmsted.