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Dressing The Stones
Raising The Foreign Stones
Salisbury Plain
Stonehenge Summarised Useful Facts For The Attention Of Visitors
Tenons And Mortices
The Barrows Of Salisbury Plain
The Building Of Stonehenge
The Druid Question
The Earthwork
The Foreign Stones
The Hele Stone Or Friar's Heel
The Legend Of The Friar's Heel
The Lithology Of Stonehenge
The Men Of The Barrows
The Process Of Erection
The Round Barrows
The Slaughtering Stone
The Stones Without The Circle
The Story Of The Sarsens
What Was Stonehenge?
When Was Stonehenge Erected?

The Round Barrows

The visitor to Stonehenge has only to turn his back to the Friar's
Heel, as he stands on the Altar Stone, and he will see a typical
group of Round Barrows, seven in number. Let him remember, then,
that Wiltshire boasts of two thousand similar sepulchral mounds; and
that he can, within an easy distance of Stonehenge, find three hundred
of them, while in the same radius he will only encounter two Long

The proportion, therefore, of round to long is considerable, viz.
1:150. The figures of round and long for the entire county are
eighty-six Long to two thousand Round Barrows, or 1:24. In other words
there are five times more Round Barrows in the Stonehenge District,
than there are anywhere else in Wiltshire, taking Long and Round
Barrows together. This disproportion in distribution cannot altogether
be the result of accident; it must bespeak a special attraction for
the spot by the builders of the Barrows, and from the very fact that
Stonehenge was erected at a time when these people were first arriving
on Salisbury Plain, it does not seem extravagant to claim that they
had some reason for wishing their remains finally to rest within easy
distance of what must have been to them a sacred spot.

As already noted, these Round Barrows can be divided into three
classes: 1. The simple Bowl-shaped Barrow, that most frequently
encountered, having a diameter of from twenty to sixty feet, and a
height of from three to five feet. 2. The Bell-shaped Barrow which
reaches its highest development on the plain round Stonehenge, and is
more common and more beautiful in Wiltshire than in any other part of

Indeed, the Stonehenge Bell Barrows are the very crown of the
Sepulchral Mound on Salisbury Plain. Unlike the Long Barrow, they are
entirely surrounded by a circular ditch, from which material for the
Mound has been excavated; within the ditch is a circular area level
with the turf, from which the mound rises from five to fifteen feet in
a graceful conical form. The diameter will be upwards of one hundred
feet, so that the entire structure is considerably larger and more
impressive than the Bowl Barrow.

3. The Disc Barrow, so named by Dr. Thurnam, the great Barrow
expert, from its resemblance to a flat dish surrounded by a deep rim.
It consists of a circular area, level with surrounding turf, having a
diameter of about one hundred feet. This circular area is enclosed by
a ditch with a bank on the outside, both usually very regular and well
constructed. Within, at the centre, is a mound not more than a foot
high containing the sepulchral deposit. Occasionally there are more
than one of these minute mounds, which often escape notice by reason
of their insignificance.

It is very significant that the Disc Barrow is more plentiful around
Stonehenge than in any other part of Wiltshire. Elsewhere they are
comparatively rare.

In the Round Barrows it is not uncommon to find that the body has
been cremated before interment. In the Bowl and Bell types, about
three out of every four bodies have been so disposed of. In Dorset the
relative interments, by cremation or otherwise, is four out of five,
while in Cornwall cremation is almost universal.

Almost without exception, however, the Disc Barrows contain only
cremated remains. The existing impression is that these three forms of
Round Barrow were in use at one and the same time, but that the Bowl
Barrow was the earliest, followed by the Bell, and that the Disc is
the latest form of all. From construction, if for no other reason,
this hypothesis seems perfectly tenable.

The Barrows on the Plain were built of the materials most easily
accessible, mould, chalk, and flints, with occasional fragments of
Sarsen. As has already been recorded, fragments of Foreign Stone from
Stonehenge have been found in one of those forming the group which lay
immediately south-west of the circle, but now destroyed by
cultivation. The method of procedure was simple. A grave would in many
cases be dug sufficiently long to contain the body if buried by
inhumation in a crouching position. This grave would vary in depth
from a few inches to six feet. Sometimes blocks of Sarsen would be
built over the body to protect it. The crouching posture is specially
noteworthy. The knees are drawn up to the trunk and the legs bent on
the thighs, while the arms are closed towards the chest, and the hands
over the face. There has been some speculation as to the significance
of this particular attitude. Some have seen in it that of an unborn
infant, others the natural position in death, others again have
maintained it was the primæval posture of sleep. It seems quite
possible, however, that the position may be due to mere utilitarian
motives as being more compact for the purpose of burial. The lie of
the inhumed skeleton is usually with the head to the north; exceptions
show that the east, south-east, and south-west, have sometimes been
selected, but never due south. Interments with the head to the west,
as in Christian burial, are very rare.

When burial by cremation took place, it is evident that the actual
rite of burning took place elsewhere, and that the calcined remains
were brought to the plain for burial. In some cases the ashes were
conveyed to the spot wrapped in skins, or possibly in some rude form
of cloth; more frequently in Wiltshire they were deposited in cinerary
urns. The proportion of urn burial is as three to one. This method of
conducting the cremation at one spot, and the subsequent removal of
the ashes to another, generally considered sacred, is not uncommon,
even at the present day.

The urns were sometimes placed upright, at others they were inverted,
the latter being the more common custom. The mouths of these urns were
frequently stopped with clay, or closely packed flints. The urns vary
in size considerably from nine inches to fifteen in height, and from
about a pint to more than a bushel in capacity. A veritable giant
rather over two feet high, the largest of its kind hitherto found in
Wiltshire, is preserved in the Salisbury and South Wilts Museum.
Another only two inches less in height was recovered from a Barrow
within a third of a mile from Stonehenge.

In most cases various objects were found associated with these
interments, such as drinking-cups, food vessels, incense-cups, weapons
and ornaments.

The fictile vessels are all of a very primitive nature, being entirely
moulded by hand, and showing no trace of the use of the potter's
wheel. The body consists of a mixture of clay mixed with fine pebbles,
or pounded flint, and sometimes ground chalk or shells. For finer work
sharp sand has been employed. The firing is most primitive and
imperfect. After drying in the sun the vessel was probably baked in
the ashes of a fire of brushwood piled over and about it. The
decoration, like the other processes, bespeaks a simple culture. It is
usually in the nature of lines, or dots, varied now and then by thumb
marks, many exhibit the impress of the thumbnail. A pointed stick
would produce lines on the soft body of the vessel, so would a twisted
cord, while a rude comb of points inserted in a stick, gave a fine
dotted line. Circles, animal forms, or arabesques do not appear at

The Cinerary Urns and Incense Cups were strictly sepulchral; the Food
Vessels and Drinking Cups seem also to have been reserved for funeral
rites, as they are not found apart from the Barrows, and placed beside
the dead ceremonially, to contain provision for the Spirit in its
voyage to the distant land to which it had departed. Both Food Vessels
and Drinking Cups are rare in Wiltshire. Two were presented to the
Salisbury Museum in 1915, both of which came from Hampshire. A similar
vessel was found at Bulford in 1910, and is in the same collection.

The finds in the Round Barrows are not, however, confined to
pottery. Weapons, some of stone, some of bronze, and occasional
ornaments of gold and amber shed further light upon this departed race
of Salisbury Plain. Although this people has been referred to as a
Bronze Age people, it does not follow that their weapons were made
exclusively of that material. In all ages there is a perceptible
overlap from the former culture. In much later days the bow and arrow
lingered on long after the introduction of fire-arms; so, too, in
these early times, the stone implement was used side by side with the
more recent metal one. Axes both perforated and unperforated have been
found, but it is distinctly significant of an advancing culture, that
the perforated axes outnumber the older form. Several of these stone
hammer-axes have been found associated with bronze daggers and celts,
showing that the use of stone and bronze was contemporaneous.

Dagger blades of flint have also been found in barrows, though not
commonly. Four such blades, which might perhaps have been javelin
heads, were found in one barrow at Winterbourne Stoke. They represent
a very high standard of workmanship, and elegance of form and finish.
Three are of a delicate leaf-shape, while the fourth is
lozenge-shaped. Flint arrow-heads when found are always finely barbed.
The bronze objects, however, are in excess of those of stone, thus
showing that the new bronze was displacing the older flint implement.
Moreover, all the bronze weapons are of an early type. This is of some
considerable importance, since it would seem to indicate that the
Barrows were erected very shortly after Stonehenge, which it will be
remembered has been referred to an early period of the Bronze Age.
Certainly only a very short interval separates the completion of
Stonehenge and the building of the Barrows; or to put it in other
words, before Stonehenge was built there only existed two, or perhaps
three, Long Barrows upon the Plain; but when it was finished, Barrows
to the number of three hundred grew up around it, and all these
Barrows, from their contents, belong to a period almost identical with
that of the Stone Circle itself.

No other Barrows in Wiltshire have been so productive of bronze
daggers as those about Stonehenge. In some cases it has been possible
to recover portions of the ornamental sheaths in which they lay. Their
handles were of wood, strengthened occasionally with an oval pommel of
bone. In some cases, gold pins have been hammered into the wood to
form a zig-zag pattern.

Personal ornaments also occur among the Barrow finds; more usually
they are of amber, sometimes of gold, and occasionally of bronze.

Ornaments of amber have been found in thirty-three barrows; the
quality of the material is usually red and transparent, though
sometimes a paler variety has been employed. These ornaments are
mostly necklaces, either of beads, or of graduated plates perforated
and strung together. One found at Lake consisted of nearly two hundred
beads and plates, and when worn must have extended halfway down to the

Ornaments of gold were found in seven barrows. Many of these were
built up upon a wooden mould, the gold being hammered on, and fastened
by indentation.

Next: The Men Of The Barrows

Previous: The Barrows Of Salisbury Plain

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