West Kennet long barrow, 800m south-east of Silbury Hill
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 14-Aug-2020 at 02:49:21.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SU 10456 67739
Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the most
rich and varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country. Long barrows were constructed as earthen or drystone
mounds with flanking ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early
and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC). They represent the burial places
of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest
field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where
investigated, long barrows appear to have been used for communal burial, often
with only parts of the human remains having been selected for interment.
Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument
preceding the barrow and it is probable that long barrows acted as important
ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Some
500 long barrows are recorded in England of which fifteen survive in the
Avebury area. These represent an important group for understanding the
historical context within which Avebury developed during the Late Neolithic
and Early Bronze Age periods; all are considered to be worthy of protection.
West Kennet long barrow survives well and is a well-known and outstanding example of its class. Partial excavation has enhanced our understanding of this site and its class in general. Evidence for the nature of the burial practices in the Neolithic period and subsequent ritual behaviour, for example in the forecourt area, has given an insight into the lives of early farming communities. Despite this excavation, however, much of the mound and the flanking ditches remain undisturbed and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the Avebury landscape in which it was built.
West Kennet long barrow is a Neolithic chambered burial mound situated just
below the crest of a north-east facing slope with views towards the monumental
mound of Silbury Hill c.1km to the north-west. The burial mound has been
partially excavated and the entrance to the chambers reconstructed.
The barrow mound, which is trapezoidal in plan, measures 104m in length and
25m across at the widest point. The mound survives to a maximum height of
3.2m. The internal chamber, which is at the broader east end of the mound, is
of the multiple axial type, consisting of five small chambers, all accessible
from a common 12m long passage but not from each other. The chambers vary in
size from 2m to 4m across and have a maximum internal height of 2.5m.
Following a period of exposure, the mixed bones of at least 30 individuals
were placed in the chambers over a number of generations before the entrance
was finally sealed. There seems to have been no preference for male or female,
adults or children, although there were no infants present. Grave goods
included pottery vessels of Early and later Neolithic date as well as beads
and stone implements including a dagger dated to between 3000 BC and 2600 BC.
The area in front of the entrance to the chamber was originally a forecourt
where funerary processions would have arrived and offerings to the dead would
have been left in wooden structures.
To the north and south of the mound are quarry ditches 100m in length and c.5m wide located c.6m out from the edge of the barrow mound. Although these have become in-filled over the years they survive comparatively well and remain visible as earthworks.
Excluded from the scheduling is the boundary fence and adjacent field boundaries but the ground beneath these features is included in the scheduling.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
The Victoria History of England: West Kennet Long Barrow, (1957), 137-138
Piggott, S R, The West Kennet Long Barrow: Excavations 1955-56, (1962)
SU16NW100, CAO, West Kennet Long Barrow, (1989)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing