Monday, March 26, 2007

The Barrow

Back in 1996, while travelling around Great Britain, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I visited the West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire, England. A barrow is a burial mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. We'd stopped at nearby Avebury to see the standing stones and after lunch I convinced my wife to walk with me the 1.5 miles to the barrow.

It was a beautiful, crisp November day as we hiked past Silbury Hill, which is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe. As we walked we had to cross several fenced fields. We did so by stiles. A stile is a pair of steps or ladders that is accessible to pedestrians but generally inaccessible to animals. I'd heard of them but had never seen them until that day.

We eventually came to the barrow. It was getting on in the afternoon by that time and we were the only people there. The barrow was built about 3600 BCE which is around 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge was constructed. The size of some of the stones were quite large. I'm about 6' 3" to give you an indication of the size of the stones in comparison to me.

Me outside the entrance to the barrow

Inside the barrow were several chambers used by these Neolithic people to bury their dead. Archaeological excavations in the past have found at least 46 burials, ranging from babies to elderly people. It was a strange feeling to be in such an ancient tomb, standing where people so long ago mourned and buried their loved ones.

Me inside the barrow
My mind couldn't help being drawn to the time when I first became aware of the meaning of the word barrow; I was about 12 or 13 and I was reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. In one of the early chapters, the hobbits were trapped in a barrow and just barely managed to escape from the barrow-wights.

No comments: