Prehistoric Britain

Round Barrows

2500–1500 BC, Late Neolithic and Bronze Age, Britain.

The people in late-Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain liked to invoke the circle when commemorating their dead.

Alongside the famous stone circles of the late-Neolithic and early Bronze Age at Stonehenge and Avebury, there are many more examples of stone circles, circles of wooden posts, circular enclosures delineated by a segmented ditch – so-called causewayed enclosures – henges and round barrows, testifying to the importance and power of the circle in the eyes of the inhabitants of late-Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain. Many of these monuments have been associated with the commemoration of the dead, and round barrows are, of course, grave mounds.

The houses of these people were thatched roundhouses. And just as Neolithic longhouses in Britain may have led to the building of long barrows, so, perhaps, the Bronze Age dead needed a suitable house to live in. Perhaps the circle held a range of meanings and associations. A house. The passage of the sun. A circular path that repeats without end. Death and renewal. Some of the original burials in round barrows dating to this period are known to have been placed in a foetal position. The ground was often de-turfed before the building of the mound and sometimes it was freshly ploughed before the body was laid to rest.

As though to receive a seed.

barrows against a skyline barrow against a skyline

Bronze Age round barrows above the village of Priddy, Somerset, England.

circular saucer barrow on a downland slope

A Bronze Age saucer barrow in a small barrow cemetery on the chalk downland above the village of Brook, Isle of Wight, England.

Detailed descriptions of the results of round barrow excavations can be found in: Bradley, Richard, 1998 reprinted 2006. The Significance of Monuments: On the Shaping of Human Experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe. Routledge.

See for yourself

Tumulus – Wikipedia

Bell barrow – Wikipedia

Neolithic and Bronze Age Barrows in Norfolk – Norfolk Heritage Explorer

Dead and yet alive

District Line

entrance to a passage grave
grassy knoll with stone slabs hinting at a hollow interior

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