Ancestry: History: Prehistoric: Britain: Burial Grounds:


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The Prehistoric British Burial Grounds

During the Neolithic period, the British first started using long barrows to place the departed members of their community on. Communal graves, in the form of henges and causewayed camps were later discovered, and archaeologists traced the structures to be built as early as 3500 B.C. In a primitive burial site located at Hambledon Hill, chambered tombs and long barrows were unearthed. Soon after it was discovered that the Early British people had practiced burial rites before the dead were placed inside the long barrow.

The burial rites they performed were called corpse exposure. Corpse exposure corresponds to the act of leaving a dead body out in the open. It is also meant to decompose by itself or be eaten by birds and animals.

Long barrows were communal graves, meaning it could hold one dead body to as many as 50. Both children and adults were placed inside.The long barrows, which could be as long as 350 feet, were made of either earth or stones. A variation of the long barrow communal grave is the passage grave. Like the long barrow, it is also traced to the Neolithic era and is characterised by a long, narrow passage, which leads to the central chamber. Bryncelli Ddu, the same one found in Gwynedd is an example of a passage grave.

Causewayed camps must be the oldest remains discovered in 3500 B.C. Several of these were found in western and southern parts of England. A good example of a causewayed camp burial ground is the Windmill Hill camp in Avebury. Causeway camps can be 9 hectares in size and consist of concentric rings of ditches and banks. The rings would have gaps to serve as a place of entry.

The Stonehenge must be the most popular attraction in Britain, as far as burial grounds are concerned. There are many of them located in Wiltshire, more particularly in places like Avebury, Woodhenge, and Durrington Walls. Stonehenge falls under the henge type of burial ground, which technically is a simple trench enclosing an area.

In the case of a Stonehenge though, large stones were piled and sometimes, placed on top of each other to resemble a ceremonial ground. Many archaeologists believe that the Stonehenge is not simply a place for burying the dead, other ceremonies such as wedding rites and sacrifices were done there as well.

Other burial grounds found in the British prehistoric areas were barrow mounds, hill figures, stone circles, and hill forts. Barrow mounds are simple individual burial grounds following a bowl-like figure. There are at least 6,000 of these in the West Country of England. Hill figures are also well-photographed archaeological grounds in Britain. They were characterised by huge incised figures standing on the soil.

Stone circles, on the other hand, also used stone as the main building material. The stones were placed on top of each other to form a circle or an oval. Several stone circles were found in and around Britain, including the British Isles. Hill forts are basically enclosures built over the hilltop. These forts were supposed to be constructed during the Iron Age. From afar, these burial places look like defensive arenas enclosing a fairly high area.

Original Authors: Phil Post
Edit Update Authors: M.Harris
Updated On: 24/07/2008

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