Dowsing for The Bronze Age….

by Bernie Bell - 08:48 on 06 June 2023

Dowsing for The Bronze Age….

Samantha Gray’s ‘Dowsing’ exhibition at Tankerness House Museum… https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/exhibition-dowsing-at-brodgar/

reminded me of when I took part in an attempt to dowse for Bronze Age Barrows.

When we lived in Suffolk a neighbour told me that she’d seen an old map of the Oulton/Flixton area which had burial mounds marked on some paddocks which are part of the family farm.  Our conversation ignited her interest, and she contacted Suffolk County Council who sent her some information and a very useful aerial view of the area in question.

I’ll quote from their letter…

“I enclose a sketch plot and a copy of the Suffolk County Sites and Monuments Record of the ring ditch/es on your land.

These probably represent the circular ditches surrounding levelled former round barrows or burial mounds, usually dating to the Early Bronze Age ( circa 2,000 BC) .”

The Record states…

“Cropmark or soilmark of one clear ring ditch, circa 20m diameter, and two possible ring ditches to S (?) “

I’ll attempt to reproduce their, rather murky, photo of an aerial view…

The burial mounds being the vague, blotchy bits in the field just about central to the image - there’s nothing left of them now – just vague, blotchy marks on an aerial map and….dowsable energy!

Which leads me neatly to the dowsing experiment….

Mike and I, aforementioned neighbour, and local historian Ivan Bunn  (he’s called Bunn, and he lives in the Old Bakery in Lowestoft – honest!) chose a day to dowse the paddocks.  Luckily the central paddock where we thought the mounds might have been located didn’t have horses in it, so we walked back and forth, dowsing……


We came to the conclusion that the larger mound was located  just about centrally, with the land falling away before it to the West, with an out-look for miles. The other mounds were, we think, slightly to the right and slightly behind and to the right of the larger one.

We noticed that the mounds would have been on a slight elevation where the land drops down to the West, facing the setting sun.  Ancient peoples often liked to place their burial sites on an elevation.

The position of the mounds would mean that, when approached from the West, they would be silhouetted against the sky to the East and the rising sun. 

The same West-East alignment which carried through to early Christian churches.

I was talking with a neighbour about our experiment, and she pointed out that the presence of burial mounds could explain the terrible bends in the road.  Logically the road should cut straight across from the first corner, when approaching from Oulton village. 

The consensus of opinion was that the modern road probably follows the line of an ancient track-way, and the track-way will have veered round to avoid the burial mounds, as it would not be acceptable for people to randomly cross a sacred site. 

We’d often wondered why anyone would plan a road with such dreadful bends when the lie of the land doesn’t dictate it – and this provides a very plausible explanation.

The same neighbour also pointed out that, back then, Lowestoft didn’t exist – it was marsh-land. This area around Oulton and Flixton will have been the higher, and therefore drier, ground where people will have been living and dying and burying their dead.

When my nephew and his wife, who live in rural Ireland, were planning to have a house built they asked a local dowser to locate a water source for them.  He turned up, walked up and down with his rods, said… ‘dig there’. They did – Hey presto. 

The old ways are still alive, and still effective.


Here’s one I made earlier…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/01/08/orkney-walks-with-stories-the-procession/



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