6. Long Barrows in the Round

The work undertaken by Historic England and on behalf of Highways England by Wessex Archaeology at Druids Lodge has confirmed the presence of long barrow WS71, and revealed a new long barrow, WS86. GPR survey of AM140 has also revealed internal features in the former area of the mound, and further GPR surveys of other long barrows in the SWHS and environs might cast considerable light on the internal configuration of these other highly significant monuments without recourse to expensive and destructive excavation. However, the limited excavation undertaken at WS71 and WS86 has demonstrated that considerable information can be drawn from a small-scale excavation of completely denuded long barrows, improving our understanding of the mortuary landscapes around Stonehenge and thus of the Outstanding Universal Value of the SWHS. This work also highlights that great potential exists for excavations to better characterise internal structures or preceding features at long barrows. Similarly, further excavation of the barrow ditches — including reaching the base of ditches with excavation, rather than augering — may be able to provide better dating and environmental evidence. Given that WS71, WS86 and AM140 are all currently under the plough, there is considerable incentive to undertake this work in the near future before more evidence is lost.

We have also shown how these long barrows fit into the local pattern. The presence of internal features mirrors other long barrows in the region in broad terms, but the specifics of pre-monument activity and barrow-related architecture are quite diverse across the monuments where details of such features are available. There is also very considerable variation in both size and quality of information from previous excavations. The dating evidence for long barrows within the SWHS remains inadequate, although we have been able to demonstrate the likely currency of these and other contemporary monuments through recourse to data from the wider region. The landscape setting of long barrows has long been acknowledged to be of importance, but like McOmish et al. (2002) and Bowden et al. (2015), we consider highly localised topography to be key to the alignment of long barrows, rather than cosmological alignments. Work at WS71 and more widely by Exon et al. (2000) suggests that inter-monumental views were also important, and the cluster of long barrows around the head of the dry valley between Wilsford and Normanton Downs may suggest an early significance to this area. We have suggested that the Wilsford Shaft may have formed part of this early landscape focus, given various considerations of its dating and sequence, although in the light of the limitations of the evidence this must remain a very tenuous suggestion. More securely, causewayed enclosures and long barrows can be considered to articulate different aspects of Early Neolithic activity in the landscape, but collectively may illuminate routes through the landscape, perhaps relating to livestock management. Rather than focusing on static studies of visual relations between monuments, future work should consider the interrelations between long barrows and other Early Neolithic monuments in terms of movement, as well as considering finer grained questions of seasonality and vegetation, and how views, activities and movement around these monuments may have changed through the yearly cycle. At the scale of individual monuments, it is clear that at many long barrows the more easterly end of the barrow had greater significance than the westerly end, being larger, and possibly better maintained at some monuments. This may reference activity prior to the raising of the mound, but also would surely have remained a key structuring principle in activity at/on the mound after its construction. More detailed palaeoenvironmental work at other long barrows and in their environs would greatly assist in understanding landscape use and activity at long barrows, as well as aiding more traditional research agendas in understanding the SWHS environment.

WS71 and WS86 were destroyed during later prehistory, and exploring why has allowed the emergence of interesting patterns of preservation of long barrows relating to the associations with round barrows and Stonehenge. Long barrows in the SWHS are preferentially selected for inclusion in round barrow cemeteries in comparison to long barrows in the SPTA. Remarkably, no long barrow within view of Stonehenge has been fully ploughed out, and none are overlain by prehistoric field systems. We have posited that the differential treatment of these monuments relates to Early Bronze Age views of the past, and the importance of long barrows as the burial monuments of the mythologised past in relation to contemporary Early Bronze Age discourses regarding ancestral claims to the Stonehenge landscape. The specific elaboration of WIL41 and WS1 by round barrow cemeteries may be linked to their position around the Wilsford/Normanton dry valley, which became an important route to Stonehenge in the Early Bronze Age.

It is hoped that these suggestions, and the results presented from WS71 and WS86, prompt renewed interest in research into long barrows in the SWHS and beyond. These monuments are key to understanding the later monumental landscape, yet their morphology and chronology remain quite poorly understood in comparison to, for example, the henge monuments.


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