FUNERAL remains dating from the Bronze Age have been saved from destruction by a quick-thinking excavator operator at Tidworth.

Bob Gaunt of groundwork contractors Dean and Dyball works as part of the team constructing new service accommodation for Aspire Defence.

It was during excavation works within Bhurtpore Barracks he revealed the graves.

The area was immediately sealed off to allow specialists from Wessex Archaeology to investigate the find.

Dating back to the time of Stonehenge, the four graves are 3,500 years old, making them the oldest finds in Tidworth.

The bodies had been cremated and the ashes in three of the graves were covered by pots placed upside down.

The fourth burial was not covered by a pot and instead may have been wrapped in a cloth, long since rotted away.

"The finds were confirmed as Bronze Age," said Lt Col Mick Roberts from the MoD project team.

"The site itself has markings that appear to be an ancient ditch which ends next to the urns."

Nick Truckle, project manager at Wessex Archaeology said: "Bronze Age burial mounds are a familiar sight, even today.

"But not everyone was buried under a barrow at this time.

"As the four graves lay in a line, we imagine that the sites of the graves were marked by some sort of memorial.

"As the graves are so close together this small cemetery may have been a family one."

Peter Caddick, environmental manager from Aspire Defence praised all involved but he singled out Bob Gaunt and Steve Churchill from contactors Dean and Dyball and Alan Curtis, construction manager of Aspire Defence Capital Works for their professional and responsive approach.

The site reopened for the building work to continue after two days.

Wessex Archaeology removed the urns to their laboratory where they will be studied to establish the age and sex of the dead. Using radiocarbon dating on fragments of charcoal from the funeral pyre it's hoped to get a close dating of the finds.