West Kennet, Wiltshire, England

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Stuart Piggott (1910—1996) archaeologist


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A very large Cotswold–Severn‐style long barrow with a chalk mound some 100 m long and up to 3 m high, perhaps constructed in two or more phases. Extensive excavations directed by Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson between 1955 and 1956 revealed that the mound was built from chalk quarried out of two flanking ditches originally 3 m deep and 7 m wide. The chamber, small in comparison to the mound, is of transepted plan and opens from the east end of the mound. Two pairs of cells open from the passage and there is a fifth cell at the far end of the passage. When first constructed the tomb was entered from a small forecourt, which was later filled with stones. The burials lay scattered across the floors of all the cells within the chamber—at least 46 individuals in all, although many were incomplete disarticulated skeletons. Some pottery and personal ornaments were included with the burials. One of the individuals had probably been shot with an arrow tipped by a leaf‐shaped flint arrowhead. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the main period of use was between 3800 bc and 3400 bc. Sometime after 3000 bc the tomb fell out of use and was blocked up. Soil and stones were placed in the passage and chambers, and stones were piled up in the forecourt. A façade of large sarsen boulders was set up across the front, making further access to the interior impossible.


S. Piggott, 1963, The West Kennet long barrow: excavations 1955–56. London: HMSO

Subjects: Archaeology.

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