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 Location: Marlborough, England.  Grid Reference: 51 24' 30.78" N, 1 51' 4" W..

 

      West Kennet: (Chambered Long Barrow).

The oldest and longest long-barrow in England.

The West-Kennet long-barrow was an important part of the Avebury landscape as determined by its location, or rather, by the location of other nearby monuments in relation to it such as Silbury Hill which was built so that each sat at the same heights when viewed from the other.

(Internal plan of chambers and burials)

 

 

   West Kennet Long-Barrow

The oldest and longest long-barrow in Britain. The mound is 350 ft long (100m)  varies in width from 75 ft at the east end and 50 ft at the west end, where it terminates in a sepulchre approx 35 ft wide, 43 ft long and 8 ft high. The entrance was blocked by several large sarsen stones, one of which weighs 20 tons (9). These stones were transported over 20 miles and were repositioned in 1956.

This impressive Neolithic tomb is situated on a prominent chalk ridge near Silbury Hill and not far from Avebury. The county of Wiltshire alone contains 148 out of 260 of Britain's long barrows, and this is one of Britains largest. In many parts of Europe this type of tomb has been given giants' names, as a reminder of their size and presence and one of their puzzling aspects is that they are very long, for no apparent reason. (The chambers only occupy around 1/8th of the overall length of the mound). Entering the tomb beyond the forecourt there are two burial chambers either side and a larger polygonal one, 2.3m (7.5ft) high, at the end of the passage.

The tomb was covered over with soil taken from either side (A similar technique was used at both Adams-grave and Waylands Smithy)

The construction of West Kennet commenced about 3,650 BC (1), which is some 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge. It was used for approximately 30 - 40 years and was then closed off, (1) although it was re-opened several times over the following thousand years.

In the past the mound has been damaged by indiscriminate digging, but scientific excavations in 1859 and 1955-56 found a total of 46 burials, ranging from babies to old people. The latest excavations also revealed that the side chambers occur inside an exact isosceles triangle, whose height is twice the length of its base. It is thought that this tomb was in use for as long as 1,000 years and at the end of this period the passage and chamber were filled to the roof by the Beaker people with earth and stones, among which were found pieces of pottery, bone tools, and beads.

Archaeologists found traces of fires, animal bones, pottery and beads just outside the entrance to the tomb. (1)

The barrow has been dug into at various times over the centuries notably by a Dr. Toope who, during the late 17th Century, who used any bones he found as an ingredient in potions and medicines. Because of these earlier intrusions no acceptably accurate record of its original contents can now be made.

 

Internal Engravings and Markings:

There are several reported stones with faces on them (nine in one report). In the south-west chamber is a megalith with three cup-depressions near the top. It was in this chamber in 1955-56 that Stuart Piggott found that three skulls had been arranged against the south wall in a row: the skulls of a child, a young woman, and an elderly woman, perhaps alluding to the three ages of woman.

west kennet long barrow

Concentric Circles on one of the internal stones of the West Kennet Long-Barrow.

 

Alignments:

The length of the passage is reminiscent of other astronomically orientated passages and it is reasonable to speculate that the passage may have been originally designed so as to receive sunlight on a particular day of the year.

The passage is aligned to true east. A local legend tells how this tomb is visited on Midsummer Day by a ghostly priest and a large white hound. Because the passage was blocked by large sarsen stones, it is not possible to determine exactly how the light would have entered the tomb.

The internal arrangements of the tomb are reminiscent of the earth-mother design of other Neolithic passage mounds and temples such as those found on Malta and the Orkneys.

(More about the Earth-Mother)

 

West Kennet: Gallery of Images.

west kennet and silbury hill

Silbury Hill was built such that the top is at the same altitude as West-kennet.

 

Complete Beaker found in West Kennet.

 

(Avebury)

(Silbury Hill)

 

(Other Prehistoric English Sites)

 

 

 

References:

1). http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/files/Learning/avebury_teachers_kit/investigate_west_kennet_longbarrow.pdf
9). Rene Noorbergen. Secrets of the Lost Races. New English Library. 1977.

 

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