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Article by Moss

Wayland's Smithy in Autumn 2006

Wayland's Smithy in Autumn 2006

This longbarrow was excavated by Richard Atkinson and Stuart Piggott in the years 1962-63. They seems to have uncovered two periods. Period 1; This was a barrow containing a wooden mortuary hut shaped like a ridge tent, but with a sarsen stone floor. Here some fourteen bodies had been laid, some articulated, others with limbs separated – probably due to the practice of excarnation. When the hut was full sarsen stones were placed around it, and chalk from ditches on either side was piled on top. The mound being kept in position by a kerb of boulders.
Period 11; Consists of the mound that is now visible 54.9 metres long by 14.6 m at the front tapering to 6.1. m at the back. The front facade originally contained 6 great sarsen stones, each about 9 foot high, at the back was the passageway with a chamber on either side.
In the restoration work drystone walling was used to fill the gaps between the stones. Apparently an earlier excavation in 1919, found in the left hand chamber 8 skeletons including 1 child. The latest excavation of 1962 showed that the final barrow was excavated from ditches on either side of the mound and was held in place by a continuous kerb of sarsens. Radio carbon dating at this time was between 3700 and 3400 bc.
The two missing stones beside the entrance are marked by irregular dry-stone walling. There seems to have been a rather more formalised interpretation in the ‘restoration’ work in which the flanks of the barrow were sharply revetted to form walls. Now, in 2007, the mound has acquired a graceful curve with what remains of the kerbing stone sitting comfortably in the ground. The work was done by the DoE, and it is well to remember that ‘neatness’ in the restoration work, may not necessarily give a true final picture..

The following photograph taken in 1930 shows how Wayland’s Smithy looked before restoration, a jumble of  facade stones, and it is well to remember that West Kennet Longbarrow  was in a similar state and also underwent the same work at the hands of the above two archaeologists.  Both monuments are magnificient reminders of Neolithic stone construction, so perhaps in the end we should welcome such restorations which give us a better understanding of these longbarrows.

 

Ref: An Archaeological Guide to Southern England; Gen.Ed. Glyn Daniels 1973.

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