West Kennet Long Barrow

This is another Neolithic chambered tomb, near Avebury. It’s significantly bigger that most of them. High enough in the open bit to walk around in (as you’ll see below). It’s also one of the oldest tombs. Actually, the List of oldest known surviving buildings on Wikipedia has it as the second oldest building in the UK (after the Knap of Howar) and the oldest in England (and older than Stonehenge & the Egyptian pyramids and everything else you’ve heard of probably). Which I didn’t realise at the time because I went to Avebury for a day trip and bought booked train tickets so I’d have about 2-3 hours in the village and therefore wouldn’t want to walk out to look at the barrow. Right…

Anyway, the panel at the site says: The long barrow was built in about 3650 BC by an early farming community, people who had arrived from Continental Europe only a few generations before. For about 50 years, they placed their dead into the different chambers, grouping them according to age, sex and perhaps social or family group. As new people were placed in the chambers, older burials were disturbed and the bones re-arranged. Over the next 1,000 years people regularly returned the long barrow, filling the chambers with earth, ash, chalk rubble and sarsen stones. Mixed with this material were pottery sherds, flint tools, and the bones of both humans and animals. Perhaps the barrow became a shrine to the ancestors or to the land itself. In the early Bronze Age, three large stones were placed to block the entrance and finally seal off the chambers.

The barrow is at the top of a hill. (You can maybe just see it if you click to get the large picture.) (You did know you can get larger pictures by clicking?) It is very long, about one hundred metres. Too long for the camera once it become close enough to see properly.

Some cremations and the partial remains of at least forty-six individuals – both male and female and of all ages – have been found inside, together with grave goods including pottery, beads and stone implements such as a dagger, dated to between 3000 and 2600 BC. The tomb was closed sometime around 2000 BC and the main passage filled with earth, stones, rubble and debris. The forecourt was then blocked with sarsen boulders and a false entrance of twin sarsen uprights constructed. Finally, three massive sarsen blocking-stones were erected across the front (eastern end) of the tomb.
English Heritage

For comparison, the Averbury henge and stone circles were constructed about 2850-2200 BCE. So not built by the same people and not even used by the same people. The infilling seems to have started before or about the same time as the henge constrction started, and not that long after that was finished, the barrow was sealed. Burial barrows are just so last millenium. Or maybe the kids kept sneaking off to have parties in there, or cows were getting lost.

At the eastern end of the mound is an impressive structure consisting of five chambers opening off a central passage. This is fronted by a semicircular forecourt with a façade of huge sarsen stones aligned north–south. The main passage penetrates about 42 feet (13 metres) into the barrow, with two of the burial chambers on each side of the passageway and one chamber at the end.
English Heritage

I made a little video. It was maybe not as dark in the end chamber as the phone thought or I would have needed a torch. (Video does continue past the dark part.) There are also some regular photos below.

You can see the entrances to the first two chambers on either side here

This is the lefthand chamber. It’s the only one with enough natural light that I didn’t need the flash.

End half of the passage, with flash. (Flash makes foreground glary and backgrounds too dark, but camera has its limits and barely enough light to see by is the limit with a tripod.)

End chamber.

Looking back towards the entrance. (You can get a better idea there of how dark it was inside.)

From on top, you can see the length of the barrow.

And get a lovely view of the surrounding area. There’s Silbury Hill with Avebury in the background.

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