The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Winterbourne Stoke Group

Round Barrow(s)


Dr. Thurnam's account of his opening the Long Barrow in 1863

About a mile-and-a-half to the west of Stonehenge, on the boundary of the parishes of Winterbourne Stoke and Wilsford, is a cluster of circular barrows, which, as in many other instances, are grouped around an immensely long tumulus. The twenty six tumuli, which, in addition to the long barrow, form this group, are mostly of the more elegant, and probably less ancient, forms.
In five, the interment has not been found ; two, however, are those absurdly called ' pond barrows,' and probably not sepulchral. Of the twenty one, seven have been raised over the entire body, and fourteen over the burnt remains. All are probably of the ' bronze period; ' and in three, containing skeletons, and one, burnt bones, there were fine blades or pins of that metal, one of the last with an ivory handle. Drinking cups, or other earthen vases, were obtained from four of the barrows; and there was a bone pin with another of the deposits after cremation.

The tumulus is about 240 feet in length, and nine in height at the north east end, where it has a breadth of about 65 feet; at the other extremity it is not quite so high or broad. The summit is thrown up almost to an acute ridge, but at the two ends the surface is more rounded. On each side is a trench stretching the whole length of the barrow, but, as usual, not continued round either end.
A large excavation at the south-west extremity, disclosed no sepulchral traces; and this immense mound, with an interment only at one end, was no doubt intended as much for a monument as a tomb. At the north-eastern end., about two feet below the highest part of the tumulus were six skeletons, viz ; one of a man of about sixty years, one of a young woman under twenty, one of a child about seven, and three of infants of less than two years, the youngest, perhaps, featal. The skull of the man lay to the north-east, that of the woman to the south-west. Secondary interments of the Anglo-Saxon period have been found near the summit of long barrows ; but these were obviously British, as shown by the flexed position of the skeletons, by an empty vase of very coarse British pottery, and an oval flint knife. The male skull is well preserved, and of extremely brachycephalic type ; the skulls of the woman and children were obtained in a fragmentary condition, but the latter present the same well-marked type, with the occiput flattened. These interments can hardly have been other than secondary, and of a later date than that for which the tumulus was erected ; and it became a question whether, on the primary interments being reached, the skull would prove of the same, or of dolichocephalic type.

Continuing the excavation, the chalk rubble was dug through, to a depth of six feet, into a stratum of black unctuous earth, of which the lower third of the barrow through its entire length seems to have been formed. At a further depth of three feet, the chalk rock was reached, where were the remains of the original interment ; viz., the skeleton of a man laid on the right side, with the knees drawn up in a closely contracted posture, and the head to the south-west. Close to the right arm, lay a natural bludgeon-shaped flint, about 8 inches long, well adapted for being grasped in the hand; from one end of which numerous flakes had been knocked off. The skull was dolichocephalic ; though less decidedly so than many of the crania from the chambered barrows.
Near the back of the head was a round 'cist' or hole, scooped out of the chalk rock, about 18 inches wide and the same in depth. Two feet further to the north, were two similar cists of oval form, but somewhat larger, and scarcely so deep. These holes, like others beneath the long barrows of South Wilts, had perhaps been used for deposits of meat and drink, as a viaticum for the dead ; or possibly for the blood of human victims, whose mangled remains appear often to have been buried with the body of their chief in this class of tumuli. A few scattered bones of sheep and other animals were found near the summit, and about a yard from the feet of the primary interment, was the symphysis of the ischium of an old horse. The skeleton was that of man of less than middle stature ; viz., about 5 feet 6 inches.

Dr. Thurnam's paper on " Principal Forms of Ancient British and Gaulish Skulls," printed in vol. i. of Memoirs of the Anthropological Society of London, 1865.
Chance Posted by Chance
10th June 2010ce

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