West Kennet

Long Chambered Barrow
Nearest town: Marlborough
Nearest village: Avebury
Map reference: SU 105677

West Kennet Long Barrow ImageThe entrance to the burial chamber is behind these large sarsen stones

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This impressive Neolithic tomb, situated on a prominent chalk ridge near Silbury Hill and not far from Avebury, is one the largest chambered long barrows in Britain. The county of Wiltshire alone contains 148 out of 260 of Britain's long barrows. In many parts of Europe this type of tomb has been given giants' names, as a reminder of their size and presence. But one of their puzzling aspects is that they are very long, for no apparent reason.
    West Kennet is more than 100m (320ft) long and 2.4m (8ft) high and at the left end is a row of large, upright sarsen stones which were repositioned in 1956. Behind these is the passage-grave which occupies only 1/8 of the barrow's length and runs back into the mound about 10m (33ft). Entering the tomb beyond the forecourt there are two burial chambers either side and a larger polygonal one, 2.3m (7.5ft) high, at the end of the passage.
  The construction of West Kennet commenced about 3600 BC, which is some 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge. In the past the mound has been damaged by indiscriminate digging, but scientific excavations in 1859 and 1955-56 found a total of 46 burials, ranging from babies to old people. The latest excavations also revealed that the side chambers occur inside an exact isosceles triangle, whose height is twice the length of its base. It is thought that this tomb was in use for as long as 1,000 years and at the end of this period the passage and chamber were filled to the roof by the Beaker people with earth and stones, among which were found pieces of pottery, bone tools, and beads.
    A local legend tells how this tomb is visited on Midsummer Day by a ghostly priest and a large white hound.

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