Sep. 6th, 2012

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I promised you a post on Cotswold-Severn - instead, this is going to be a post in two halves.  Or rather, we'll be having the main course later, with the 'horses-doovers' coming tonight.  Okay, so it's a bit unfair to describe poor old Nympfield Long Barrow as the 'hors-douvres', but when it's up against the one and only Wayland's Smithy, it's facing pretty stiff competition, believe me....


Nympsfield Long Barrow, located just south of Cirencester, is our first example of the so-called 'Cotswold-Severn' tradition, a form of burial mound constructed in the Neolithic period, between 4000 and 3000 BC (i.e. predating the Egyptian pyramids...)

Several regional traditions of long barrow/cairn have been identified within the British Isles (N.B. the term 'barrow' is used when the mound material is predominantly earth, and 'cairn' when it's stone). the Cotswold-Severn tombs are concentrated around Gloucestershire, but similar examples have been identified from Wales to Scotland (according to tonight's source literature, the Scots long-cairn type known as the 'Clyde-Carlingford' is a subdivision of the Cotswold-Severn, which is news to me, but hey ho, I'm just a Bronze Age scholar, so what do I know!).

Cotswold-Severn tombs are identified by their trapezoidal mounds, poorly preserved in this example, and shown as a very slight rise in the ground in the photograph below:-


At the front of the monument, there is a forecourt area, sometimes emphasised by upright stones, and often defined by a stretch of drystone walling. Sometimes this forecourt is defined on either side by the edges of the mound, which extend forward as 'horns':-


Located within the mound there will be one or more stone- built chambers. Often there's one located at the front and accessed through the forecourt, but sometimes there are secondary chambers located further back along the mound:-


Obviously, it's used for burying the Neolithic dead, but the actual nature of the funerary rituals is much more difficult to interpret. And that's what we'll be talking about in my next post.

And acknowledgements for today's post must go to The Tomb Builders in Wales 4000-3000BC by Steve Burrow (National Museum of Wales Books, 2006). Which is a book that should really be on the shelves of anyone who has even a passing interest in matters Neolithic or megalithic.  And which has now been followed up by a lovely companion volume on the Bronze Age, called Shadowlands, which is a book I'm really keen to get hold of...


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