Record Details

NHER Number:5087
Type of record:Monument
Name:Neolithic/Bronze Age 'burnt mounds' and pit and multi-period prehistoric finds


In 1921 a large number of burnt flints were found on the surface within Buckenham Tofts Park, close to several natural springs. Subsequent excavations by Nina Layard exposed two large accumulations of burnt flints, which she interpreted as the debris associated with prehistoric cooking places. A pit containing a hearth and a number of worked flints were also uncovered and further worked flints were recovered within the layers of burnt flint. The burnt flint accumulations investigated by Layard were almost certainly examples of what are now commonly referred to as 'burnt mounds', which are often encountered close to natural water sources. It appears that in most cases the hot flints had been used to warm or boil water, although the ultimate purpose of this activity remains a matter of debate. Layard suggested the Buckenham Tofts features were most likely Neolithic or Bronze Age, a date which would appear to be supported by the illustrated flints. A single Late Upper Palaeolithic blade core has also been identified amongst the surviving finds from the site; which are held by the Ipswich Museum.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TL 8487 9481
Map Sheet:TL89SW

Full description

May-July 1921. Excavation.
In 1921 Nina Layard was shown an area of Buckenham Tofts Park where numerous burnt flints were being disturbed by moles and rabbits. In May of that year Layard undertook an initial investigation of the site and returned to excavate a second area several months later. This work revealed several large mounds of burnt flints that Layard suggested represented the debris from prehistoric cooking places. Layard's discoveries were first reported in (S1) (produced following the first phase of excavation) and a much more detailed article was published following the completion of work on the site (S2). A short note also appeared in the local press (S3). Information from (S4). See also Royal Commission notes in file.

The site is described in (S2) as being the area of the park where "numerous springs take their rise at a somewhat high level near its south-east boundary, and flowing northwards have cut through the old chalk surface at more or less regular intervals for the space of several acres, carving it into a series of large folds." Layard excavated a trench up the side of one of these natural mounds, revealing a "…compact mass of fire-cracked flints." Exploratory holes demonstrated that these burnt flints covered a large, roughly triangular area. A larger area was opened out at the lower end of the trench, where Layard believed the "actual cooking place" lay. Toward the top of the mound several piles of unburnt flint were identified. A number of "humanly struck flints with definate bulbs of percussion" were recovered from in amongst the burnt flints. The only potentially associated feature was a circular depression identified on the top of the natural mound, just beyond the last of the burnt flints. This feature was interpreted by Layard as a "pit-dwelling" and contained a "small well defined heath" at its centre and an "abundance of humanly struck flakes…".

The second phase of excavation focused on a second "cooking place" that was "…on the other side of the mound, supplied by another spring". A large area was cleared, exposing a mound of burnt flints that was of similar dimensions to the first. It was noted that, as in the first excavation "…a mass of black powder filled a large space somewhere about the middle of the heap." This deposit contained charcoal and small burnt flint fragments. Further worked flints were recovered, along with two red pottery sherds with coarse quartz temper.

On the basis of the worked flints recovered Layard suggested a Neolithic/Bronze Age date for the features that she had uncovered. Various flints from the site are described and illustrated in (S2), including an unfinished arrowhead, an awl, scrapers and knives. One of the knives illustrated (and described as probably Bronze Age by Layard) has shallow invasive retouch of the kind typically seen on Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age flake knives. The features exposed by Layard are what would generally now be referred to as 'burnt mounds' and are commonly associated with material of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date.

Also illustrated in Layard's report is an object described as a "…white core pick…[which] may belong to the mining period…". This is almost certainly a Late Upper Palaeolithic blade that is now held by the Ipswich Museum. This object is described in R. Jacobi's records (S5), which note that it is labelled "2nd excavation Buck Tofts, at upper end of chalk ledge near furnace, 18.7.21'. 'Cissbury type'.". Jacobi also notes that this is the only one of the Buckenham Tofts flints to be patinated white - which would indicate that the Ipswich Museum holds the other flints recovered at this site. This core is also noted in (S6) (listed as an unprovenanced piece from Stanford/Ickburgh).

The current mapped extent of this record (which was previously unmapped) indicates the approximate position of Layard's excavations, based on the plans and plates that appear in (S2).

Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 23 July 2014.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • BURNT MOUND (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • HEARTH (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • PIT (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • BLADE CORE (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • AWL (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • FLAKE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • KNIFE (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT BOILER (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Early Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Late Neolithic - 3000 BC? to 2351 BC?)

Protected Status


Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Article in Serial: Layard, N. F. 1921. A Prehistoric Cooking-place in Norfolk. Nature. Vol CVII 14 July p 623.
<S2>Article in Serial: Layard, N. F. 1922. Prehistoric Cooking Places in Norfolk, with a brief account of heating stones, their history and significance. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Vol III Pt IV (for 1921-22) pp 483-498.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. Unknown. A Prehistoric Cooking-place. unknown.
<S4>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Neolithic. Stanford.
<S5>Archive: R. Jacobi. -. Jacobi Archive. 113.
<S6>Article in Serial: Robins, P. and Wymer, J. 2006. Late Upper Palaeolithic (Long Blade) Industries in Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt I pp 86-95. p 94.

Related records - none

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