Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

West Kennet Long Barrow, Wiltshire

At the bottom of the hill leading up to the barrow, there is a lovely oak tree which has been decorated by visitors to the site. Ribbon, beads and scraps of cloth adorn the branches of this 'prayer tree', making a delightful start to the journey to see the last resting place of some of our ancestors.

The barrow is of Neolithic origin, and is thought to have been built and used from circa 3700 BC until around 2200 BC. It is part of the Avebury area consisting of many prehistoric sites, and not far from a path of standing stones known as the West Kennet Avenue, connecting Avebury with the Sanctuary on Overton Hill. The Avenue can be clearly seen from the top of the barrow. It is also just south of Silbury Hill.



Although undoubtedly a tomb, the full usage of the barrow is uncertain, as the very few skeletal remains belie that as being the sole use of its 1500 years existence. Rites may very well have been performed here, and its East-West orientation may signify the importance of the rising and setting of the sun. Only 46 people were found to have been buried here, some dozen of which were children, but various disturbances during the last few centuries may have altered the original amount. They may, also, have belonged to the most prominent members of their society at that time.

Interestingly, usage of the barrow ended at around the time that the Avebury stone circle and Silbury Hill were built. This was also when the community living by nearby Windmill Hill began to emerge. The change in society and also religious rites may therefore have been a factor in the sealing of West Kennet Long Barrow. 

The entrance to the tomb was sealed around 2200 BC, and the large sarcen stones were also erected at this time.

The interior upright stone, positioned central left (photo below), has deep grooves on its surface caused by the sharpening of flint axes, and  at the farthest part of the tomb a modern-day visitor had left a token of a small beaded bracelet and some holly leaves with berries.

There's a gentle slope leading to the top and I went up and walked to the end of the long barrow, which was indeed rather long - much longer than the small part that's open inside - and which afforded fantastic views across the countryside. By that point I'd finished the film in my camera and I just couldn't make myself put another one in; it had been a long day, I was cold & tired, and it was drizzly weather, but I really wish I had. 

A few more photos, along with these, can also be seen in the Photo Gallery album.

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