- Wayland's Smithy
Name = Wayland's Smithy
Photo = Waylands Smitty 2 db.jpg|Wayland's Smithy, Tomb (detail)
Neolithic long barrowand chamber tomb
Nearest Town =
Nearest Village = Uffington
Grid_ref_UK = SU281854
Coor = coord|51.56645|-1.59575|display=inline,title
Wayland's Smithy is a
Neolithic long barrowand chamber tombsite located, near the Uffington White Horseand Uffington Castle, at Ashbury in the English county of Oxfordshire(historically in Berkshire).
The later mound was 185 feet long and 43 feet wide at the south end. Its present appearance is the result of restoration following excavations undertaken by Stuart Piggott and
Richard Atkinsonin 1962-1963. They demonstrated that the site had been built in two different phases, a timber chambered oval barrowbuilt around 3700 BCand the second stone chambered long barrow in around 3400 BC.
The wooden mortuary house mainly consisted of a paved stone floor with two large posts at either end. A single crouched burial had been placed at one end and the mostly disarticulated remains of a further fourteen individuals were scattered in front of it. Analysis of these remains indicated that they had been subjected to
excarnationprior to burial and deposited in possibly four different phases. Postholes at one end have been interpreted as supporting a timber facade. The whole monument was covered by an earth barrow with material excavated from two flanking ditches and measured around 20m in length.
The later stone tomb consists of two opposing transept chambers and terminal chamber, along with the longer entrance chamber, this gives the burial area a cruciform appearance in plan. It is classified by
archaeologists as one of the Severn-Cotswold tombs. The large trapezoidal earth barrow erected over it was revetted with a stone kerb and its material was again excavated from two large flanking ditches. Excavation in 1919 revealed the burials of seven adults and one child.
The site is important as it illustrates the transition from timber chambered barrows to stone chamber tombs over a period which may have been as short as 50 years.
Wayland's Smithy is one of many prehistoric sites associated with Wayland or "Wolund", the Norse and Saxon god of blacksmithing. The name was seemingly applied to the site by the Saxon invaders, who reached the area some four thousand years after Wayland's Smithy was built.
According to legend, a traveller whose
horsehas lost a shoe can leave the animal and the smallest silver coin (a groat) on the capstone at Wayland's Smithy. When he returns next morning he will find that his horse has been re-shod and the money gone. It is conjectured that the invisible smith may have been linked to this site for many centuries before the Saxons recognized him as Wayland. The Ancient Britonsmay have been accustomed to making votive offerings to a local god.
In recent years, at this and other ancient sites, such as the
West Kennet Long Barrow, offerings have been left in the form of flowers, nuts, grain, fruit, and feathers, presumably by visiting Neo-Pagans.
Views of Wayland's Smithy in a Different Light
Wayland's Smithy can be a very atmospheric place in different conditions, as some of the photos taken in late afternoon gloom show.
* [http://www.pegasusarchive.org/ancientbritain/waylands_smithy.htm Ancient Britain - Wayland's Smithy]
* [http://www.adrian.smith.clara.net/graphics/waylands_plan.gifPlan of Wayland's Smithy]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/alongtheridgeway0607 Improvised music recorded inside chambers of Wayland's Smithy]
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