"Excavations of a burial mound on the top of Golden Cap in 1994 uncovered pollen samples which indicated a landscape formerly dominated by oak woodland. A charcoal sample from buried soil was dated to about 2,000 BC."
Dorset Natur Hist Archaeol Soc Proc, 115, 1994, 51–62, pls, figs, refs.
What was charcoal doing on Golden Cap?
A Short History of Charcoal in England
Everyday objects were commonly made from bronze and a significant charcoal production was required to support the expanding metal industry. The wood supplies for this came mostly from the continued clearance of the wildwood which was being converted for agriculture. The wildwood had covered almost all of the country since the last ice age but by around 1000 BC about 50% had been already been cleared.
Through the Iron Age the demand for charcoal grew as more efficient methods of producing iron were developed. In the south of the country on the lighter chalkland an even greater level of clearance of the wildwood occurred. This area was particularly favourable for agriculture with easily worked soils that drained freely and were ideal for habitation. Ploughing of the land resulted in erosion leading to the formation of banks (lynchets) upon which trees grew. These were regularly coppiced and helped supply the local charcoal producers. The formal integration of woodland and agricultural management had begun.
|A typical limekiln (not from Stanton St Gabriel - but it would have looked similar).|
Charcoal was used to fire lime kilns in areas where there was no natural coal. A lime kiln remains in Stanton St Gabriel near to Westhay Water and there may have been others. The limestone burnt in the limekiln would have produced lime that was valuable as a fertiliser and for mixing into mortar for building purposes.