Amesbury Barrows

Amesbury Barrows is in Station 5 Amesbury North.

Leaving the Winterbourn Stoke group, and proceeding in a line towards STONEHENGE, we find but few barrows, until we approach the precincts of that monument.

No. 12 [Map] is a group of small tumuli, in one of which, immediately under the turf, we found a very rude urn, badly baked, and containing ashes, burned bones, and two pieces of twisted brass wire, which probably once formed a ring: this urn was not inverted. We attempted to open another, but finding that, together with the remainder Of the group, it had been ploughed over, we gave up our researches, as, owing to the slight elevation of these barrows above the level of the ground, their contents would most probably have been destroyed by the continued operations of agriculture.

No. 13 [Map] is a Druid barrow, which contained a simple interment of burned bones.

No. 14 [Map] a group consisting of eight barrows of different sizes, and close to the road leading to Amesbury.

The tumulus [Amesbury Barrow 14 G1 [Map]] nearest that place produced the largest sepulchral urn we have ever yet found, it measures fifteen inches in diameter at the top, and is 22½ inches high; it varies also most decidedly in shape and pattern from any others in our collection; on which account we have distinguished it by the name of the Stonehenge Urn. It contained an interment of burned bones, and was not inverted; but the deposit was secured by a large triangular stone, placed over the mouth of the urn. It is engraved in Tumuli Plate XVI. Two of these barrows are superior in size to the rest; the one nearest the road is large and bowl shaped; eighty feet in base diameter, and eight and a half in elevation, though it appears to be much higher. The men made a large section, supposing the interment would be found at a considerable depth, but they met with it at eight feet and a half, in a shallow oblong cist, where the burned bones had been interred in a box of wood. The adjoining large tumulus produced an interment by cremation, which had in former times been disturbed by rabbits. Some others of this group, though scarcely elevated above the ground, produced deposits of burned bones; in one of them, just under the turf, was found a brass spear head, and two of the others had been opened before.

On approaching STONEHENGE, we come to a fine group of barrows, several of which have had their external appearance much defaced by rabbits.

No. 15 [Map], is a Druid barrow, in which we found a deposit of burned human bones within a cist. It had been opened before, and some scattered fragments of bone, led us to suppose that a skeleton had been found, though the other interment had escaped unnoticed.

No. 16 [Map] is a mutilated flat barrow, 76 feet in diameter, and only 3 Feet in elevation. This appears to have been one of those opened by Dr. Stukeley, and thus mentioned by in his account of STONEHENGE (page 46). "And in a very great and old fashioned 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 interred was one of the builders." During our researches in this tumulus, we perceived that a long section had been made, and found the bones of two skeletons which had been interred in the floor, also several pieces of stag's horns, animal bones, kc. as well as some fragments of sarsen stones, similar to those which form the great trilithons of STONEHENGE. On clearing out the earth from this section, we observed a small heap of whiter soil, which having removed, we came to the primary interment of burned bones within a fine circular cist, and found a spear head of brass in fine preservation, and a pin of the same metal. It is somewhat singular, that these burned bones (a more than usual quantity) should have laid unmolested in barrow where there were a hundred rabbit holes. On removing the earth from over the cist, we found a large piece of one af the blue stones of Stonehenge, which Sowerby the naturalist calls a horn stone, which, with the sarsen stone, is a very singular occurrence, and decidedly proves that the adjoining temple was erected previous to the tumulus, Some persons acquainted with the soil in this part of Wiltshire, might think the finding of sarsen stones no uncommon event, and I should perhaps have thought the same, had these specimens been rounded by attrition; but the stones found within this barrow, are pieces chipped off, (l sorry to say) like those now daily knocked off from the great fallen trilithon. With regard to the blue stone, we are certain this species is not to be found in the southern district of Wiltshire. In opening the fine bell-shaped barrow N. E. of STONEHENGE, also found one or two pieces of the chippings of these stones, as well as in the wagon tracks round the area of the temple. These circumstances tend to give a much higher æra of antiquity to our celebrated building, than some antiquaries would be willing to allow, and evidently prove that at the period when the tumuli adjoining STONEHENGE were raised, the plain was covered with the chippings of the stones that had been employed in the formation of the stone circle.

No. 17 [Map] is a long barrow, in which we made no discovery.

No. 18 [Map] is injured by rabbits.

No. 19 [Map] seems to have been onc of those opened either by Lord Pembroke, or Dr. Stukeley, who had been successful in finding the interment in an oblong cist.

No. 20 [Map]. This barrow had been opened before, and contained the interment of a skeleton.

No. 21 [Map] and No. 22 [Map] were unproductive.

No. 23 [Map], Mr Cunnington attempted to explore this fine bell-shaped barrow some years ago, but was unsuccessful. On a second trial, I found that in his former operations he had left off a few inches of a large rude sepulchral urn inverted over a pile of burned bones, amongst which was an elegant pair of ivory tweezers.

NOTE. In the book the next section follows the description of stonehenge to "relieve my readers from the monotony". we have re-arranged the sections to keep the descriptions of the barrows in one place.

Having described all the barrows within the triangle formed by the roads from Amesbury to Deptford on the south; to Shrewton on the north; and from Salisbury to Devizes on the west; I shall endeavour to relieve my readers from the monotony, which the description of so many similar objects must naturally create, by introducing them within the precincts of STONEHENGE; and shall defer my account of the remaining barrows in its environs, to a future Iter.

Quitting Stonehenge, with its appendant antiquities, and pursuing the road to our quarters at Amesbury, we find three tumuli situate between the avenue and the turnpike road.

No. 24 [Map] is a very flat barrow, in which were the skeletons of an adult and a child, deposited in a very shallow cist, and which had been disturbed by a prior opening.

No. 25 [Map] is a wide bowl-shaped barrow, in which we found, within a shallow cist, a skeleton with its head towards the north, and a drinking cup by its right side, and near it a neatly formed pin or needle of bone.

No. 26 [Map] is situated on the borders of the turnpike road, and produced a large interment of burned bones on the floor, with a cone of jet, two oblong beads of the same substance, eighteen of amber, and a very small cone of the same.

From hence the road to Amesbury leads us on the edge of the Duke of Queensberry's park, through an ancient earthen work, commonly called Vespasian's camp, which shall be described in my next Iter.

Iter II. Vespasian's Camp [Map]. This extensive work has been generally supposed to be Roman, and has, as well as the neighbouring camp of YARNRURY, been attributed by STUKELEY to the Emperor. That this great General occupied one or both of them, during his conflicts with the Belgæ, is not unlikely; but that he constructed either of them, is very improbable, as they bear no resemblance whatever to the camps formed by the Romans. This was originally the strong-hold of those numerous Britons who inhabited the plains around Stonehenge, an asylum in times of danger, for their wives, children, and cattle; such as our experience has taught us existed all over our downs, and especially near those districts selected by the Britons for their residence. Such we find at Yarnbury, Amesbury, and Everley, in this immediate neighbourhood, and such we find dispersed all over our county. These camps were afterwards taken possession of by the succeeding nations of Romans, Danes, and Saxons, as occasion and necessity required; and to the more modern conquerors we chiefly may attribute the immense ramparts and outworks added to the original and more simple works of the Britons.

This camp occupies the apex of a hill, surrounded on two sides, east and south, by the river Avon; it comprehends within its area thirty-nine acres, extends in length from south to north, and terminates in a narrow rounded angle at the latteer point. It was surrounded by a single vallum, which has been much mutilated on the east side in forming the pleasure grounds of Amesbury park. The ramparts on the western side towards Stonehenge, are very bold and perfect. It appears to have had two entrances, north and south; the former still remains perfect, and untouched. The area is planted and fancifully desposed in avenues, walks, kc. near the principal one of which, and on the highest ground, is the appearance of a barrow, but much disfigured in its form.

From this camp, I shall direct my steps to the gap between the old and new King's barrows, near the former of which is a solitary tumulus, No. 27 [Map], which appeared to have had a prior opening, and to have contained originally, the skeletons of two adults, and two children. Round the arm one of the former was an ornamented bracelet of brass, which the labourers unfortunately trod upon, before they perceived it, and broke it into three pieces, but it has been repaired, and preserved in our Museum.

On approaching the Cursus, we find a numerous continuation of barrows, flanking the southern side of it; the first of which is No. 28, and one of those opened by Lord Pembroke, in the year 1722, as well as No. 29, of which I shall copy the account given by STUKELEY, in his description of Stonehenge, page 44.

[No. 28 [Map]]"In the year 1723, by Thomas Earl of Pembroke's order, I begun upon a barrow north of Stonehenge, in that group south of the Cursus. It is one of the double barrows there, and the more easterly and lower of the two; likewise somewhat less. It was reasonable to believe, thig was the sepulture of and that the lesser was the female; and so it proved; at man and his wife; least a daughter. We made a large cut on the top, from east to west, and after the turf was taken off, we came to the layer of chalk, then to fine garden mould. About three teet below the surface was a layer of flints, humouring the convexity of the barrow. These flints are gathered from the surface of the downs in some places, especially where it has been ploughed. This being about a foot thick, rested on a layer of soft mould another foot, in which was enclosed an urn full of bones. The urn was of unbaked clay, of a dark reddish colour, and crumbled into pieces. It had been rudely wrought with small mould5ngs round the verge, and other circular channels on the outside, with several indentures between, (see Plate XXXII. where have drawn things made with a pointed tool, found in this barrow.) The bones had been burned, and crowded 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 graved in their true magnitude. It appears have been a girl of about 14 years old, by their bulk, and the great quantity of female ornaments mixed with the bones, all which we gathered. Beads of all sorts, and in great number, of glass of divers colours, most yellow, one black; many single, many in long pieces notched 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, 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 through, either through their diameter, or sides. Many of the button sort seem to have been covered with metal, there being a rim worked in them, wherein to turn the edge of the covering. One of these was covered with a thin film of pure gold. These were the young lady's ornaments; and alt had undergone the fire, so that what would easily consume, fell to pieces as soon as handled; much of the amber was burned half through. This person was a heroine, for we found the head of her javelin in brass. At bottom me two holes for the pins that fastened 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 recomposed the ashes of the illustrious defunct, and covered them with earth, leaving visible marks at cop, of the barrow having been opened, to dissuade any other from again disturbing them; and this was our practice in all the rest."

[No. 29 [Map]]. "Then we opened the next barrow to it, enclosed ill the same ditch, which we supposed the husband or father of this lady. At fourteen inches deep, the mould being mixed with chalk, we came to the entire skeleton of a man; the skull and all the bones exceedingly rotten, and perished through length of time; though this was a barrow of the latest sort, as we conjecture. The body lay north and south, the head to the north."

Not dissuaded by the external appearances, and convinced by experience that all interments found near the surface were subsequent deposits, Mr. CUNNINGTON, in 1803, explored the second tumulus, by making a section rather to the south of the centre, when at the depth of six feet, he came to the floor of the barrow, which was covered with ashes; and on digging still further to the south, he bund a fine oblong cist, about eighteen inches deep, fifteen-inches wide, and two feet long; and in it a complete interment of burned bones, and with them six beads apparently of horn, four of which were perforated; the other two were circular, and rather flat, but all appeared as though they had been burned. Dr. STUKELEY made the same observation respecting the articles found in the other barrow; but he must have been mistaken as to the amber, for we know that fire would entirely consume it.

No. 30 [Map]. A beautiful bell-shaped barrow, and the largest of this group. It measures in diameter from ditch to ditch one hundred and thirty-one feet, and fifteen feet in elevation. The superior size and beauty of this tumulus particularly excited our curiosity, and raised our expectations of success; but alas! after immense labour in throwing out the earth, to the depth of fifteen feet, we found only a simple interment of burned bones, unaccompanied by any urn, the relicts were piled up in a little heap upon the floor arms, or trinkets; where the body had been burned, and close to a small circular cist or cinerarium, which contained black ashes, intermixed with some small fragments of bone.

No. 31 [Map], a bowl-shaped barrow, one hundred and four Feet in base diameter, and seventy-one and a half in elevation, produced on its floor an interment of burned bones, with a small spear head:

and No. 32 [Map], a fine bell-shaped barrow, contained only a simple interment of burned bones.

No. 33 [Map], is a kind of Druid Barrow, present in an area of seventy-eight feet. diameter, surrounded by a fine vallum without the ditch, but having no elevation, as usual, in the centre. Deprived of this index to the place of interment, we expected much trouble in finding it; but our workmen luckily hit on the very spot; and at the depth of two feet, found a circular cist, containing a deposit of burned bones, together with a great many beads. Some of them were pully beads of glass, two of stone, another of a transparent horn-like substance; but the most were of amber, and much decayed.

No. 34 [Map] has had a prior opening; and in No. 35 [Map] we could not find the interment.

No. 36 [Map]. The contents of this barrow, in some degree, recompensed us for our disappointment in the two last. It produced three human skeletons, laid from north to south, and immediately one over the other; the first about two feet deep; the second on a level with the adjoining soil. Close to the right side OF the head of this last skeleton was a drinking cup, and with it a considerable quantity of something that appeared like decayed leather. Six feet lower lay the third, with which was found the drinking cup, engraved in Tumuli Plate XVI. When throwing out the bones of this skeleton, we had a strong proof how well they are preserved when deposited deep in the chalk. as they would bear being thrown for a considerable distancc without breaking: the teeth were perfectly white, and not. one of them unsound; but the most remarkable circumstance was, finding a piece of the skull, about five inches broad, that had been apparently sawn off, for I do not think that any knife could have cut it off in the manner in which this was done.

No. 37 [Map]. In this barrow we found only a large oblong cist, fuli of black ashes, and a few burned human bones; and in No. 38 [Map], after much labour, we missed the interment.

No. 39 [Map] is a bowl-shaped tumulus, adjoining the south side. Of the CURSUS: is seventy-eight feet in diameter, and at this time nearly seven feet in elevation, although it has been some wears under tillage. This interesting barrow had experienced a prior, but a partial opening and one skeleton, with a drinking cup, had been disturbed, On reaching the floor, we discovered another skeleton, lying with its head due north, which, from the size of the bones, and the great quantity of beads attending the interment, we conceived to have been that of a female; and several of these being found near the neck, confirmed, in some degree, this opinion. Close to the head stood a kind of bason, neatly ornamented round the verge, but unfortunately broken into several pieces. On removing the head, we were much surprised to find chat it rested upon a drinking cop, that had been placed at the feet of another skeleton, and which was interred ill an oblong cist two deep, and lying also from north to south. With the drinking cup was a spear head of flint, and a singular stone.

In this tumulus, three persons were interred; the primary deposit must, of course, have been the skeleton lying in a cist, excavated within the chalk; the second was probably the wife of this person, lying with her head at his feet; and the third and last, might have been their son. The drinking cup found at the feet of the primary interment, is large, and holds more than a quart; resembles in form and manufacture many of the others; is made out of poor clay, intermixed with bits of chalk; yet it is profusely ornamented, and in a different style to any we have yet seen. How such a multitude of indentations could be put on the surface, while the clay retained its flexibility, is surprising; for it is very clear, that these ornaments were put on singly, and most probably by a bone instrument. The sharpness and nicety to which this spear head of flint, as well as the arrows of the same material, have been chipped, must also strike the attention of every observer. Yet we know them to have been made use of, by all barbarians, for destructive purposes. Neither must the aforementioned stone be passed over unnoticed; it is very neatly polished, feels silky, and, at. first sight, looks something like fossil wood: it is striped irregularly, with dark green and white, and its proportions will be ascertained by the annexed engraving, Plate XVII. which represents both the spear head and stone, of their natural size. Mr. CUNNINGTON thinks it is of that' species of stone called by KIRWAN, ligniformed asbestos, and that it may have been considered by the Britons as of high value, from its supposed virtues.

No. 40 [Map], in point of size, may be called the monarch of the plain, being evidently the largest barrow upon it; and its history still remains veiled in obscurity. The first time we opened it by a very large section, and examined well the floor; but though we perceived symptoms of cremation, in charred wood, &c. we could not discover the primary interment. Nor were our subsequent researches more favourable, and we still remain in ignorance. Perhaps some future antiquary may be more fortunate; and such is the caprice of ancient sepulture, that the deposit may be föand near the top, as in the instance of our flint barrow at Kingston Deveril, (p. 47.)