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Barrow Types
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Barrow Types

Within the Stonehenge landscape the most numerous and spectacular prehistoric monuments are undoubtedly the great groups of round barrows. These are Bronze-Age burial mounds of a wide variety of shapes and sizes, dating from the time when Stonehenge was being rebuilt in stone.

Unlike the earlier, Neolithic long barrows that contain groups of burials, each Bronze-Age round barrow was the tomb of an individual. Their remains were either buried or cremated and they were accompanied to the next world with a wide variety of personal possessions, including pottery vessels, tools of stone, bone or bronze, and ornaments of exotic materials such as jet, amber and gold.

When first built, the gleaming white chalk mounds of these barrows would have been highly visible in the landscape, especially when positioned on prominent ridges and hills. Many of the fine barrow groups that surround Stonehenge lie on National Trust open access land.

Barrow Types

Each Bronze-Age round barrow was the tomb of an individual, accompanied to the next world with personal possessions, including ornaments of exotic materials such as jet, amber and gold.

1. Bowl barrows can vary in size considerably. They have a mound usually surrounded by a ditch.
2. Bell barrows have a flat or slightly sloping area separating the mound and the surrounding ditch.
3. Disc barrows have a small mound lying within a flat circular area surrounded by a ditch and an external bank.
4. Saucer barrows have a low mound surrounded by a ditch and external bank.
5. Pond barrows, an extremely rare form, have a shallow circular hollow surrounded by a low bank.

The barrow groups

The great concentration of Bronze-Age round barrows around Stonehenge attracted the attention of antiquaries and pioneering archaeologists. In the early years of the XIX century hundreds of barrows were excavated by William Cunnington, a self-taught archaeologist working under the patronage of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, a wealthy Wiltshire landowner. Their digging methods seem crude by today’s standards. Experience taught them that each barrow had a central burial, so a hole was dug straight down until the burial was found. They did identify different types of barrow, and recorded in some detail what they found while digging. They also mapped the landscape – the area that Colt Hoare called the Stonehenge Environs – and gave names that are still used today to many of the barrow groups.

They published their findings promptly, illustrated with detailed engravings, and were fascinated by the objects that had been placed in the grave – the pottery vessels, the weapons and tools of bronze and the ornaments and jewellery of bone, gold, jet and amber. The human remains were of no interest and were replaced in the grave. The only barrows to escape the attentions of Colt Hoare and Cunnington were the King Barrows, on the ridge to the east of Stonehenge. These had trees growing on them at the time and the landowner was not willing to cut them down, so these are the only barrows in the immediate landscape around Stonehenge to retail their burials intact.

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