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Credit: University of Reading Press

5000-year-old ‘House of Dead’ may contain Stonehenge builders

What is being called a “House of the Dead” has been excavated by University of Reading students at this year’s field school at the vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.

The Neolithic long barrow burial mound dating back more than 5000 years could potentially contain the remains of the ancestors of people who built Stonehenge, archaeologists believe.

Despite the long barrow’s existence being known for decades, geological surveys provided archaeologists with evidence of deep trenches at the location; therefore, fears of the inner building being ploughed flat had prevented excavation. Recently, however, images taken using a drone indicated that part of the barrow still survived.

The monument has been dated by archaeologists to be from the Early Neolithic period — a period in which the first agricultural communities and monument builders began to appear in Britain.

The long barrow was discovered by students within a farmer’s field at Cat’s Brain, one of the two sites University of Reading students were excavating this year at the field school.

The other site, excavated by students from the University of Reading over the past three years, is Marden Henge. Dated to around 2400 B.C., it is currently the largest Neolithic Henge enclosure excavated in the United Kingdom.

The barrow found at Cat’s Brain is the first long barrow to be fully investigated since the 1960s in Wiltshire, one of the most fruitful locations for Neolithic monument discovery in Europe.

The director of the Archaeology Field School, Dr Jim Leary, said, “Opportunities to fully investigate long barrows are virtually unknown in recent times, and this represents a fantastic chance to carefully excavate one using the very latest techniques and technology. Discovering the buried remains of what could be the ancestors of those who built Stonehenge would be the cherry on the cake of an amazing project.”

 

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