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Stonehenge, A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, by William Stukeley, [1740], at


Of the barrows, or sepulchral tumuli about Stonehenge. Generally set in groups, which are family burial places; and in sight of Stonehenge. They are single burial places. How the body is posited. What has been found in digging into these barrows.

I COME in the last place to speak of the barrows, observable in great numbers, round Stonehenge. We may very readily count fifty at a time, in sight, from the place; easily distinguishable: but especially in the evening, when the sloping rays of the sun shine on the ground beyond them. These barrows are the artificial ornaments of this vast and open plain. And it is no small entertainment for a curious person, to remark their beauties, their variety in form and magnitude, their situation. They are generally of a very elegant campaniform shape, and done with great nicety. There is likewise a great variety in their shape, and turn, and in their diameters, in their manner of composition. In general, they are always upon elevated ground, and in sight of the temple of Stonehenge. For they all regard it. This shews, they are but superficial inspectors of things, that fancy from hence, great battels on the plain; and that these are the tumultuary burials of the slain. Quite otherwise; they are assuredly, the single sepulchres of kings, and great personages, buried during a considerable space of time, and that in peace. There are many groups of them together, and as family burial places; the variety in them, seems to indicate

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some note of difference in the persons there interr’d, well known in those ages. Probably the priests and laity were someway distinguish’d; as well as different orders and stations in them. Most of the barrows have little ditches around, extremely well defin’d. In many is a circular ditch 60 cubits in diameter, with a very small tumulus in the center. 60 or even too cubits is a very common diameter in the large barrows. Often, they are set in rows, and equidistant, so as to produce a regular and pretty appearance, and with some particular regard to the parts of the temple, the avenues, or the cursus. For instance, where the avenue begins at the first elevation, from Radfin ford, advancing towards Stonehenge, seven large and flat old barrows are on the right hand of the avenue, towards the east end of the cursus, seven large barrows TAB XXIV. of a newer shape, are on the left hand: both these groups before spoken of, are plac’d in a similar manner, in regard to the avenue, and as wings or openings to it. Upon every range of hills, quite round Stonehenge, are successive TAB. XXXIII. groups of barrows, for some miles: and we may even observe, that great barrow by Lord Pembroke's park at Wilton, which I call the tomb of Carvilius, is set within view of Stonehenge.

In 1722, my late Lord Pembroke, Earl Thomas, who was pleas’d to favour my inquiries at this place, open’d a barrow, in order to find the position of the body observ’d in these early days. He pitch’d upon one of those south of Stonehenge, close upon the road thither from Wilton: and on the east side of the road. ’Tis one of the double barrows, or where two are inclos’d in one ditch: one of those, which I suppose the later kind, and of a fine turn’d bell-fashion.TAB. IX. It may be seen in Plate IX. On the west side, he made a section from the top to the bottom, an intire segment, from center to circumference. The manner of composition of the barrow was good earth, quite thro’, except a coat of chalk of about two foot thickness, covering it quite over, under the turf. Hence it appears, that the method of making these barrows was to dig up the turf for a great space round, till the barrow was brought to its intended bulk. Then with the chalk, dug out of the environing ditch, they powder’d it all over. So that for a considerable time, these barrows must have look’d white: even for some number of years. And the notion of sanctity annex’d to them, forbid people trampling on them, till perfectly settled and turf’d over. Hence the neatness of their form to this day. At the top or center of this barrow, not above three foot under the surface, my Lord found the skeleton of the interr’d; perfect, of a reasonable size, the head lying toward Stonehenge, or northward.

The year following, in order to prosecute this inquiry, by my Lord's order, I begun upon a barrow north of Stonehenge, in that group south of the cursus. ’Tis one of the double barrows there: and the more easterly, and lower of the two: likewise somewhat less. It was reasonable to believe, this was the sepulture of a man and his wise: and that the lesser was the female: and so it prov’d, at least a daughter. We made a large cut on the top from east to west. After the turf taken off, we came to the layer of chalk, as before, then fine garden mould. About three foot below the surface, a layer of flints, humouring the convexity of the barrow. These flints are gather’d from the surface of the downs in some places, especially where it has been plow’d. This being about a foot thick, rested on a layer of soft mould another foot: in which was inclos’d an urn full of bones. This urn was of unbak’d clay, of a dark reddish colour: crumbled into pieces. It had been rudely wrought with small mouldings round the verge, and other circular channels on the outside, with several indentures between, made with a pointed tool, as depicted in Plate XXXII. TAB. XXXII. where I have drawn all the sorts of things found in this barrow. The bones had been burnt, and crouded all together in a little heap, not so much as a hat crown would contain. The collar bone, and one side of the under-jaw are grav’d in their true magnitude. It appears to have been a girl of about

Plate 23. The Area of Stonehenge
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Plate 23. The Area of Stonehenge

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[paragraph continues] 14 years old, by their bulk and the great quantity of female ornaments mix’d with the bones, all which we gather’d. Beads of all sorts, and in great number, of glass of divers colours, most yellow, one black. Many single, many in long pieces notch’d between, so as to resemble a string of beads, and these were generally of a blue colour. There were many of amber, of all shapes and sizes, flat squares, long squares, round, oblong, little and great. Likewise many of earth, of different shapes, magnitude and colour, some little and white, many large and flattish like a button, others like a pully. But all had holes to run a string thro’, either thro’ their diameter, or sides. Many of the button sort seem to have been cover’d with metal, there being a rim work’d in them, wherein to turn the edge of the covering. One of these was cover’d with a thin film of pure gold. These were the young lady's ornaments. And had all undergone the fire: so that what would easily consume fell to pieces as soon as handled. Much of the amber burnt half thro’. This person was a heroin, for we found the head of her javelin in brass. At bottom are two holes for the pins that fastned it to the staff. Besides, there was a sharp bodkin, round at one end, square at the other, where it went into a handle. I still preserve whatever is permanent of these trinkets. But we recompos’d the ashes of the illustrious defunct, and cover’d them with earth. Leaving visible marks at top, of the barrow having been open’d, to dissuade any other from again disturbing them: and this was our practice in all the rest.

Then we op’d the next barrow to it, inclos’d in the same ditch, which we suppos’d the husband or father of this lady. At fourteen inches deep, the mould being mix’d with chalk, we came to the intire skeleton of a man. The skull and all the bones exceedingly rotten and perish’d, thro’ length of time. Tho’ this was a barrow of the latest sort, as we conjecture. The body lay north and south, the head to the north, as that Lord Pembroke open’d.

Next, I went westward, to a group of barrows whence Stonehenge bears east north-east. Here is a large barrow ditch’d about, but of an ancient make. On that side next Stonehenge are ten lesser, small, and as it were crouded together. South of the great one is another barrow, larger than those of the group, but not equalling the first. It would seem, that a man and his wife were bury’d in the two larger, and that the rest were of their children or dependants. One of the small ones, 20 cubits in diameter, I cut thro’, with a pit nine foot in diameter, to the surface of the natural chalk, in the center of the barrow; where was a little hole cut. A child's body (as it seems) had been burnt here, and cover’d up in that hole: but thro’ the length of time consum’d. From three foot deep, we found much wood ashes soft and black as ink, same little bits of an urn, and black and red earth very rotten. Some small lumps of earth red as vermilion: some flints burnt thro’. Toward the bottom a great quantity of ashes and burnt bones. From this place I could count 128 barrows in sight. See a vast multiplicity of ’em, TAB. XXXI. TAB. XXXI.

Going from hence more southerly, there is a circular dish-like cavity dug in the chalk, 60 cubits in diameter, like a barrow revers’d. ’Tis near a great barrow, the least of the south-western group. ’Tis between it, and what I call the bushbarrow, set with thorn-trees, TAB. XXXII. This cavity is seven feet TAB. XXXII. deep in the middle, extremely well turn’d, and out of it, no doubt, the adjacent barrow is dug. The use of it seems to have been a place for sacrificing and feasting in memory of the dead, as was the ancient custom. ’Tis all overgrown with that pretty shrub erica vulgaris, now in flower, and smelling like honey. We made a large cross section in its center upon the cardinal points; we found nothing but a bit of red earthen pot.

We dug up one of those I call Druid's barrows, a small tump inclos’d in a large circular ditch. I chose that next to bushbarrow, westward of it. Stonehenge bears hence north-east. We made a cross section ten foot each way, three foot broad over its center, upon the cardinal points. At length we found

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a squarish hole cut into the solid chalk, in the center of the tumulus. It was three foot and a half, i.e. two cubits long, and near two foot broad, i.e. one cubit: pointing to Stonehenge directly. It was a cubit and half deep from the surface. This was the domus exilis Plutonia cover’d with artificial earth, not above a foot thick from the surface. In this little grave we found all the burnt bones of a man, but no signs of an urn. The bank of the circular ditch is on the outside, and is 12 cubits broad. The ditch is 6 cubits broad (the Druid's staff) the area is 70 cubits in diameter. The whole 100.

I open’d another of these of like dimensions, next to that Lord Pembroke first open’d, south of Stonehenge. We found a burnt body in a hole in the chalk, as before. Mr. Roger Gale was with me.

In some other barrows I open’d, were found large burnt bones of horses and dogs, along with human. Also of other animals as seem’d; of fowl, hares, boars, deer, goats, or the like. And in a great and very flat old fashion’d barrow, west from Stonehenge, among such matters, I found bits of red and blue marble, chippings of the stones of the temple. So that probably the interr’d was one of the builders. Homer tells us of Achilles slaying horses and dogs, at the funeral of his friend Patroclus.

Lord Pembroke told me of a brass sword dug up in a barrow here, which was sent to Oxford. In that very old barrow near little Ambersbury, was found a very large brass weapon of 20 pounds weight, like a pole-ax. Said to be given to col. Wyndham. In the great long barrow farthest north from Stonehenge, which I call north long barrow, and supposd to be an Archdruid's, was found one of those brass instruments call’d celts, which I hold to belong to the Druids, wherewith they cut off the misletoe, as before mention’d. Mr. Stallard of Ambersbury gave it to Lord Burlington, now in Sir Hans Sloane's cabinet: 13 inches long. They dug a cell in a barrow east of Ambersbury, and it was inhabited for some time. There they found all the bones of a horse. This is the sum of what is most material, that fell within my observation, relating to the barrows about Stonehenge. We find evidently, these ancient nations had the custom of burning their dead bodies, probably before the name of Rome. So lachrymatories we read of in scripture, ancienter than Greek or Roman times, Psalm lvi. 8.


TAB. XXXI. the barrows in Lake-field. This is as a church-yard, the burial-place of some town, or large family. I mention’d before, that the ditches observable here, are hounds of parishes, hundreds or lordships. The countrymen sometime call this group, the prophets barrows. Because the French prophets 30 years ago, set up a standard on the largest barrow, and preach’d to the enthusiastic multitude.

TAB. XXXIII. bush-barrow, a barrow planted by the shepherds. ’Tis south of Stonehenge, and commands a pleasant prospect of the temple, the cursus, the avenue, and of all the barrows arounds this plain. You see the hills a little on this side Abury, whereon runs the Wansdike, the boundary of the Belgic kingdom.

TAB. XXXIV. the tumulus of Carvilius who fought Julius Cæsar. ’Tis on the other side of Wilton (Carvilium) by Lord Pembroke's park: and planted with four trees, as one of the visto's to the park.

TAB. XXXV. one of the temples at Persepolis a patriarchal one, open: but made after Solomon's temple, square: with mouldings and ornaments. I take it to be of the same age as Stonehenge.

Plate 24. The back Prospect of the beginning of the Avenue to Stonehenge, 6 Aug. 1723.<br> A. the beginning of the avenue. B. the old Kings barrows. C. the 7 Kings barrows. D. Vespasians camp.
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Plate 24. The back Prospect of the beginning of the Avenue to Stonehenge, 6 Aug. 1723.
A. the beginning of the avenue. B. the old Kings barrows. C. the 7 Kings barrows. D. Vespasians camp.

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