In a field near Biggin, along a country road and surrounded by the rolling green hills of Derbyshire, a small mound is just about apparent. It would be easy to miss, but if you look along the back of the dry stone walling at the intersection of three fields, the Liff’s Low bowl barrow is suddenly very noticeable as a raised mound of earth.
The Liff’s Low burial mound revealed the single grave burial skeleton of a Bronze Age man from 4,500 years ago who has been estimated to be between 30 – 35 years of age. He was discovered in a limestone cist and surrounded by many rich grave goods. Amongst them, polished flint axe heads, boar tusks, knives, a deer horn mace head, and a stone pendent on his chest. The man found would have been a farmer, and it is not difficult to imagine his life. He would have possibly had a family, tended to his fields, reared livestock and built his own tools to use.
Barrows are funerary monuments, typical of Late Neolithic to Late Bronze Age (2400 – 1500 BC) forms of burial. Found in cemetery-like clusters or else alone, barrows usually hold either single or multiple bodies, and a range of grave goods. Barrows were not used for everyone who died, so it is assumed that the bodies found in them could have been of people of importance.
A clay beaker was also discovered in the grave by his head which has become the topic of discussion as it reveals much about the Peak District at this point. The beaker shows patterns which are speculated to be able to identify different clans or families. It gives ideas a narrative of new cultures emerging in Europe and the Peak District, introducing new methods of designing, making and farming.
The skull found was in many different pieces, but the facial recognition image which is on display in the Buxton Museum provides a mostly full visualisation. The midsection of the image is blurry where crucial parts of the skull were missing, but the power of suggestion still aids us in picturing a man and not just a skeleton. The humanization of the farmer is crucial in placing him in his narrative, and triggering an element of empathy in the visitors to the museum.