Neolithic Long Barrow

Neolithic Long Barrow

Neolithic Long Barrow A long barrow is a prehistoric monument dating to the early Neolithic period. They are rectangular or trapezoidal tumuli or earth mounds traditionally interpreted as collective tombs.


Archaeological excavation indicated that the construction of the earth barrow was the last phase in a complex sequence connected with the ritual inhumation of the dead that took place in British society between around 4000 and 2400 BC. Many long barrow sites started off as small rectangular enclosures of earth banks topped by a timber palisade constituting a mortuary enclosure. Within this was built a wooden room-sized mortuary chamber with large supporting posts. Sometimes a grand Neolithic Long Barrow timber entrance was also built along with an avenue of wooden posts. Human remains were placed in this chamber, sometimes all at once and sometimes over a period of time. Often the bones found in them are disarticulated, implying that the bodies were subjected to exposure and excarnation prior to burial or that they were buried elsewhere and exhumed for the purpose of placing in the barrow. Rarely are whole skeletons found and is seems that only long bones and skulls survived the final interment.


A significant number of long mounds in southern England have been demonstrated more recently to have limited primary evidence of burial at all. Traditionally, these structures have been interpreted as ‘houses’ for the dead and that barrow builders may have continued this old idea in the Neolithic and later periods. In those long barrows that do contain Neolithic Long Barrow appreciable quantities of human remains, their concentration in just one small part of the overall structure has led some to argue that the long barrow was not merely a repository for the dead but also a general monument acting as a territorial marker, a place of religious offering and a community centre. Some appear to have been built over pre-existing occupation sites which may support this interpretation.

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