Long barrow

Long barrow

A long barrow is a prehistoric monument dating to the early Neolithic period. They are rectangular or trapezoidal earth mounds traditionally interpreted as collective tombs. Long barrows are also typical for several Celtic, Slavic, and Baltic cultures of Northern Europe of the 1st millennium AD.

Long barrows in the United Kingdom

Around 300 are known from Scotland and England with a concentration of the monuments in southern and eastern England. Elsewhere in the British Isles Neolithic people buried their dead in Megalithic tombs.

Archaeological excavation indicated that the construction of the earth barrow was the last phase in a complex sequence connected with the ritual inhumation of the dead that took place in British society between around 4000 and 2400 BC. Many long barrow sites started off as small rectangular enclosures of earth banks topped by a timber palisade, constituting a mortuary enclosure. Within this was built a wooden room-sized mortuary chamber with large supporting posts. Sometimes a grand timber entrance was also built along with an avenue of wooden posts. Human remains were placed in this chamber, sometimes all at once and sometimes over a period of time. Often the bones found in them are disarticulated, implying that the bodies were subjected to exposure and excarnation prior to burial or that they were buried elsewhere and exhumed for the purposes of placing in the barrow. Rarely are whole skeletons found and it seems that only long bones and skulls survived until the final interment.

Up to fifty separate individuals were placed in each enclosure, males, females and children. There is only limited evidence for grave goods in these collective interments despite the belief that such individuals enjoyed high-status. The chambers were then surrounded and covered by large stone cairns or were set alight in the case of examples in Yorkshire. Only after these procedures was the earth barrow constructed over the top of the dead. The barrow was often far larger than the original mortuary enclosure and used material excavated from ditches dug along the long sides of the enclosure. Some barrows when excavated produced evidence of the mounds being partitioned by fences which served no apparent structural purpose. A similar group of chambered long barrows contain stone burial chambers, constructed from slabs. These may come from a different tradition or may indicate a differences in design caused by the availability of usable materials. In many cases, weathering and ploughing during the invervening centuries along with early archaeological excavations and looting have left only the stone parts of the chambered monuments extant whilst some earth and timber long barrows may only survive beneath the surface. Others however are still visible in the countryside as barrows between 15 and 125m long and surviving to heights of 4-5m.

It has been conjectured that long barrows are derived from the timber long houses built by the continental Neolithic European Linearbandkeramic culture which was contemporary with the British Mesolithic. Archaeologists including Ian Hodder have noted similarities between the two forms although a significant number of long mounds in southern England have been demonstrated more recently to have limited primary evidence of burial at all. Traditionally, these structures have been interpreted as 'houses' for the dead and that barrow builders may have continued this old idea in the Neolithic and later periods. In those long barrows that do contain appreciable quantities of human remains, their concentration in just one small part of the overall structure has led some to argue that the long barrow was not merely a repository for the dead but also a general monument acting as a territorial marker, a place of religious offering and a community centre. Some appear to have been built over pre-existing occupation sites which may support this interpretation. Chambered long barrows however do appear to have been primarily intended as burial sites.

Examples of long barrows include:

* Fussell's Lodge, West Kennet Long Barrow and White Barrow in Wiltshire
* Foulmere Fen long barrow in Cambridgeshire
* Giants' Hills in Lincolnshire.
* Hazleton North, Belas Knap and Uley Long Barrow (aka Hetty Pegler's Tump) in Gloucestershire
* Julliberrie's Grave in Kent
* Stoney Littleton Long Barrow in Somerset
* Street House near Loftus in North Yorkshire.
* Wayland's Smithy in Oxfordshire.

Long barrows in Russia

Birger Nerman excavated numerous long barrows of the Krivichs in the vicinity of Izborsk.

References and further reading

*cite book
last = Ashbee
first = Paul
authorlink = Paul Ashbee
title = The Earthen Long Barrow in Britain: An Introduction to the Study of the Funerary Practice and Culture of the Neolithic People of the Third Millennium B.C.
publisher = Geo Books
date = 1984
id = ISBN 0-8609-4170-1

*cite book
last = Darvill
first = Timothy
authorlink = Timothy Darvill
title = Long Barrows of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas
publisher = Tempus Publishing
date = 2004
id = ISBN 0-7524-2907-8

*cite book
last = Lynch
first = Frances
authorlink = Frances Lynch
title = Megalithic Tombs and Long Barrows in Britain
publisher = Shire Publications Ltd
date = 1997
id = ISBN 0-7478-0341-2

*Hodder I, 1984, "Burials, houses, women and men in the European Neolithic" in D Miller and C Tilley (eds), "Architecture and Order", Oxford, Basil Blackwell

*Russell, M, 2004 "The treachery of

External links

* [http://www.pretanicworld.com/Monuments.html Pretanic World - Chart of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Celtic Stone Structures]
* [http://www.megalithic.co.uk/search.php?sitetype=15 Long barrow search results] from the [http://www.megalithic.co.uk Megalithic Portal] .

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Look at other dictionaries:

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