Before the extensive ‘Rescued from the Sea’ excavations, carried out in 2013 by Dr Clive Waddington and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, a number of significant excavations had taken place on the site.
The first excavation at Hauxley took place in 1983 and was prompted by the sight of a large stone cist, a burial box, eroding from the cliff. The size of the cist suggested that this was an inhumation, an actual burial, rather than a cremation. When archaeologist Steve Speak removed one of the stone slabs forming the cist it was obvious that this was the case. Inside the burial box was a well preserved human skeleton lying in a crouched position and facing out to sea. This was typical of burials carried out in the Beaker period, between 2000 and 2500BC. A later excavation here uncovered a flint knife and pottery beaker which could have been associated with the burial. Normally these would have been placed inside the cist though these were above the poition of the top of the cist meaning they would have been added at a later date.
Following the rescue dig, an excavation took place on the site but this time a few metres back from the eroding cliff face. The plan was to excavate down through all of the underlying archaeology until the layer of sandstone, upon which everything here sits, was hit. This would establish a section through the site. As the excavation progressed what appeared to be the edge of a Bronze Age burial cairn was discovered on the eastern edge of the trench. In a layer below this, on the western edge of the trench, archaeologist Clive Bonsall found human remains buried under a simple stone cairn. Around the burial a number of flint microliths were found suggesting that this burial was rather older than the cist burial – hinting at a mesolithic date when the use of the small flint blades was common.
In 1993 yet another two cist burials emerged in the same area as the earlier excavations. Steve Speak, along with Bill Griffiths, found the remains of one cremation and one inhumation burial. Both contained the familiar food vessels or beakers shown above.
Using radiocarbon dating the burials were identified as being early Beaker Period – between 2200 and 2400BC. The video here contains footage from the 1993 excavation including the opening of the cist.