Sunday, 16 October 2011

Pathways to the Past – Echoes of a Lost Civilisation?

By Robert John Langdon

Supporting article that appears in November 2011 edition of  'Wiltshire Life'

Long Barrows have always been the greatest mystery to Archaeologists and appear on most ordinance survey maps, denoted by a small oval black star.  They are found predominantly in the county of Wiltshire where 10% of all long barrows reside.

But what exactly are they?

The first thing we should note about Long Barrows is that they are unique to Northern Europe, unlike Round Barrows, which are found all over the world. Archaeologists agree that the Long Barrow is the oldest monument to exist in our landscape. This belief originates from the fact that carbon dating has found them to be at least 1000 to 1500 years older than Stonehenge.

West Kennet Long Barrow

Moreover, they are also aware that prehistoric human bones have been found collected together in the chambers of these types of burial mounds, rather than in individual graves, which is something unseen anywhere else in Britain. The number and condition of these bones show us that they were disarticulated (unconnected), with only the larger bones and skulls being brought to the sites after death, probably after the bones had been de-fleshed – this process is known as ‘excarnation’ and is believed to be one of the oldest human practices of burial of the dead.

But the real reason of interested in these objects is twofold; firstly, the mounds are long and thin, with an entrance at the one end. Secondly, the entire structure originally had a ditch dug completely around the exterior, which starts to relate it to other monuments like Stonehenge.
If Long Barrows existed in Egypt, archaeologists there would have no problem in identifying what the object was for or represented as it clearly looks like a gigantic boat and therefore the bones would be gathered inside for the departeds final journey into the afterlife.

West Kennett - Showing Length and shape

But this is Britain and in the Mesolithic Period, our ancestors were supposedly hunter gathers who lived in caves or temporary shelters. The concept of a boats (according to the experts) being used during this period is totally alien to most archaeologists although only last year a 6000BC boat was found at the bottom of the Solent just off the Isle of Wight by the Hampshire and Wight Marine Archaeology Trust ( The discoverers believe that not only was it the oldest boat found in Britain but quite amazingly, it was made of 10 metre ‘planked' wood.

The only archaeologist in recent years that has put forward a theory of boat people existing in the Mesolithic Period is Robert John Langdon in his book ‘The Stonehenge Enigma’ (ABC Publishing Group 2010). In this book Langdon puts forward a hypothesis that in prehistoric times the landscape was partially flooded due to the waters released by the last ice age, 12,000 years ago. These waters raised the ground water table of Britain increasing the river levels by as much as 30 metres.

If he is correct the map of Britain would look considerably different than today and the most effective form of transport in this kind of environment would have been the boat. Consequently, the seemly unanswerable questions about these barrows would now become obvious.

Long Barrow showing shape and moat around the  edge

As an example, during the prehistoric period, West Kennet would have been on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. This water now gives us a clue as to why the ditches that surrounded the monument were dug, for the bottom of the ditches would have been below the water table at this location. They were, therefore, not ditches (as we currently believe) but moats full of water.

This will also give us a better explanation of how the gigantic rocks (some weighing over 15 tonnes) got to the top of these hills, without an army of slaves pulling on ropes day and night. As the shoreline at West Kennet was only 50 metres down the track from where the Long Barrow is today. Furthermore, this is the tried and tested way that all other ancient civilisations moved stones from location to location – by boat.
Moreover, because of the moat, the monument takes on a new perspective, for it transforms from a grassy mound into a representation of a Long Boat surrounded by water.

So why is the Long Barrow a boat?

How Mesolithic Man could travel in House Boats made of reed as now in Far East

The Long Barrow represents the boat culture of this ancient society; they lived in boats and so, when they died, they were sent on their last voyage by boat to the afterlife. Even today, we still have a custom of placing money over a dead person’s eyes as their fare to be collected by the ferryman guiding them to the afterlife.

Bob Davis

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