5. Long Barrows in the Stonehenge WHS and Environs

5.1 Distribution

These two long barrows augment a dense concentration of such monuments in the western Stonehenge WHS (Bowden et al. 2015; Figure 9). These include the imposing Winterbourne Stoke 1 (WS71; Bax et al. 2010, 5–7), as well as Wilsford 34 (WIL34; Bowden et al. 2012, 20–21) at the head of a dry valley, WS71, WS86 and Wilsford 41 (WIL41; Bowden et al. 2012, 10) to the west of the valley, and to the east Amesbury 14 (AM14), Wilsford 30 (WIL30) and Wilsford 13 (WIL13) on Normanton Down (Barrett and Bowden 2010, 6–7, 14–15; Field and Pearson 2011, 6). It may be significant that the dry valley around which most of these long barrows cluster was in all likelihood seasonally wet, perhaps not yearly, but on an occasional basis; Bowden et al. (2015, 64) suggest that this may have been seen as a special property of the valley, perhaps having some influence on the locations chosen for monument construction.

It is notable that this extraordinary concentration of long barrows appears to surround the Wilsford Shaft, a 30m deep and 1.8m wide shaft at the head of the valley (Ashbee et al. 1989), although it is important to note that the shaft is not directly visible from any of the long barrows, given its location in the head of a dry valley (Exon et al. 2000, 32–33). While most radiocarbon dates and artefactual material from the shaft's infilling are Middle Bronze Age or later, an ash bucket stave from the base of the shaft provided a radiocarbon date of 3640–3120 cal BC (2σ, 4640±70BP, OxA-1089; Ashbee et al. 1989, 69, Bayliss et al. 2012, 313). Ashbee et al. (1989, 71) argue that this bucket was likely a retained, occasionally-used object of considerable ritual significance. The shaft was dug with antler picks, and the sides partially dressed using metal axes; although the excavators assume these acts to be fairly immediately successive, there is no reason why this should necessarily be so. As the length of time for which the shaft was maintained as an open monument is similarly unknown, given the date of the bucket it is just possible that the Wilsford Shaft was first established during the period of long barrow construction. While the date confirms that the bucket is indeed Early/Middle Neolithic, it is difficult to explain the near 2000 year hiatus in deposition of any other material culture in the shaft, implying that the excavators' argument for the bucket being a retained object from elsewhere may be correct. It is at least as likely that the shaft was located with regard to the location of the long barrows, rather than vice versa.

Two possible oval barrows lie immediately north-east of the Wilsford valley group on Stonehenge Down (Amesbury 10a (AM10a) and Amesbury 7 (AM7); Field and Pearson 2011, 11, 39–41; Field et al. 2014). Although oval barrows have been suggested to be later in date than other forms of long barrow (Harding and Gingell 1986), the evidence for this is slight, so these monuments have been included in this review; these issues are discussed at greater length in section 5.4. Other long barrows in the SWHS are more sparsely distributed, with AM42 at the eastern end of the Greater Cursus (Richards 1990, 96–109; Bishop 2011, 16–17), M#1069293 (here assigned the 'parish number' Durrington 76 (DUR76); this has been added to AMIE and HER records for this barrow) adjacent to the Cuckoo Stone (Bowden et al. 2015, 18), and Amesbury 140 (AM140) on the slope down to the Avon south-east of King Barrow Ridge (RCHME 1979; Bowden et al. 2015, 17; Wessex Archaeology 2016b). The nearest group of long barrows to the SWHS is to the east of Robin Hood's Ball, 1.3km north of the SWHS (Figheldean 31 (FIG31), Netheravon 6 (NET6) and Netheravon Bake (NETB); McOmish et al. 2002, 21–31), with isolated examples on the fringes of the SWHS at Bulford overlooking the Avon (Bulford 1 (BUL1); RCHME unpub. a), on Winterbourne Stoke Down (Winterbourne Stoke 53 (WIN53); RCHME unpub. b; unpub. c), on Larkhill Down (Durrington 24 (DUR24); McOmish et al. 2002, 23–24, 29), Knighton Down (Figheldean 27 (FIG27); McOmish et al. 2002, 21, 23–24, 29) and to the south WOO2 at the head of another dry valley (Harding and Gingell 1986). A possible oval barrow on Amesbury Down at ST 1467 4018 has been omitted from this study as the evidence for this interpretation of the crop marks is inconclusive.


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