Posted by: travelrat | December 6, 2013

The King Barrows

King Barrow 1

The scant remains of the long barrow, Amesbury 42, lie on a tree-covered ridge, known as the King Barrow Ridge. It takes its name from the series of fourteen round barrows that lie along it, neatly divided by the Avenue to Stonehenge; the seven to the north-east called the Old King Barrows and those to the south the New King Barrows.

Since they occupy an extremely prominent position, 17th Century antiquarian John Aubrey suggested they might be royal burial places, an idea perpetuated by several subsequent researchers.

They are probably the resting places of several fairly influential and revered people, though for, unlike many other barrows, they aren’t just formed from piled-up earth, but layers of turf. And, such a great extent of turf was dug that a substantial amount of valuable grazing would have been lost.

However, it’s not known exactly what lies beneath the barrows, for only sporadic excavations have been made. Aubrey told of the finding of pieces of charcoal and horn being found, while in 1620, the Duke of Buckingham (the one who got assassinated in Portsmouth, fictionalised in the ‘Three Musketeers’) found ‘a bugle horn tipt with silver at both ends’. But, it’s still a mystery which barrows they dug in, and where the ‘bugle horn’ is now.

Stukely, a hundred years later, was a little more precise. He dug in the one known as Amesbury 28, and found flints, below which were ‘the scattered and burnt bones of oxen and dogs’. But, they didn’t go down very far.

Subsequent excavations have, almost literally, scratched the surface. Nobody has actually set out to make a formal archaeological excavation; such finds as have been made are the result of digging for utility cables, and the holes made when trees have blown over.

So, although what lies under the barrows remains, for the most part, a mystery … it’s still a nice walk, with some great views.

King Barrow 2

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