This was a burial chamber built along the ancient highway called the Ridgeway, major road between Bronze Age kingdoms before the Romans built their roads,
that runs above the Vale of the White Horse (great names, huh?). Within this
same small area near the town of Wantage, which had something to do with
Alfred the Great, you have the old track, now a long-range footpath, the
incredible Uffington White Horse carved in the hillside, and a very extensive
bronze-age fortification. Plus the Smithy (which of course had nothing to do
with the Saxon Forge God Wayland, that's just what they named it, ignorant peasants as they were).
View of the site from the Ridgeway
Chloe and the Molars of Wayland
The White Horse
This is that really impressive and impressionistic white horse scraped out of the turf on a chalk hillside. Such a thing would not remain unless it were cleared of encroaching grass every couple of years or so, which means that the inhabitants of the area have been doing this maintenance for 3000 years or so! [This terrain lends itself to this sort of hillside graffiti, so there are British Army Regiment carvings of the same sort in the neighborhood dating from Napoleonic times -- betcha they don't last as long.]
It was a foggy day, and I couldn't get a decent picture of the
white horse as viewed properly from down below, or better, from a helicopter
(well I didn't have one of those, just a rent-a-car). The large hill-fort associated with this site was rather impressive -- huge embankments of
earth. Most entertaining event that day was seeing somebody's pet dog stampede something like 100 sheep across that great expanse, but that, understandably, is something farmers don't approve of and actually have a common-law right to shoot your dog for doing.
Uffington White Horse (that's his eye on the right, the tumulus down below, called Dragon Hill, is a
natural mound modified as a fort, Norman motte, or burial place, not sure which)
Would you go down into this place
alone at midnight? No way! If you have read Lord of the Rings you
will know what a barrow-wight is. This is just the sort of place you would encounter a creature like that. It is a long barrow in the Cotswolds near Stroud -- I forget the name because I didn't write it down.
[But found it on Paola and Diego's site as Hetty Pegler's Tump at Uley -- Aug 1998]
Burial chambers should not be confused with Stone Circles. Cenotaphs of this period fall basically into two types:
The Long Barrow, which consisted of an oblong mound with a T shaped tunnel,
or more usually a T with two or three crossbars inside the mound of earth where cremation remains were put (presumably a public place for all the nobles of the tribe) and normally with a 'formal' entrance, a door consisting of two large upright stones and a lintel, -- and later the Tumulus, a round mound that might have some upright stone pillars inside it with a capstone on the top in which there were individual interments (presumably chiefs or kings), which didn't have a door. A lot of the tumuli have lost their covering of earth and are now evident as "quoits" or dolmens. (Here [click] is a dolmen --
Pentre Ifan in Wales -- being treated rather irreverently: Samson in the Philistine temple and my sister's
patched jeans. Massive as it is, it looks as though this structure could topple at any time. This was taken in late December, many years ago, a not-very-sensible time to take a vacation in Wales, but it worked out apart from a very bad car accident. It snowed the whole time, nothing like North Dakota, but it is interesting
to see Wales with no greenery.)
Both types of monument were looted of any treasure way back in the past -- even the pharoahs' pyramids were looted by graverobbers, no matter how elaborate the sealing with huge stones and 'Indiana Jones' traps (which are mostly a legend). The ones that didn't seem worthwhile for plundering by the Vikings, or were unrecognized as tombs, were largely messed up in the Age of Reason, or by Victorian amateur antiquaries who had no idea how to do it properly -- i.e., sift every grain of dirt and measure every change in soil gradation. Does that bother me? Not really. It is the wanton obliteration of such places by farmers in these locations to increase their plowable land, or (in the case of stone circles) to grab some convenient building stone to repair their barn. If there really are barrow-wights, anybody who does this should be cursed by a King Tut revenge -- but that is a total myth (about Lord Carnarvon etc.) and was all invented by the tabloid newspapers. I have very little respect for most farmers, who are out to get every agricultural government handout we city folk have to pay for in taxes, and who insist on having a free rein to poison the land with
insecticides, fertilizers, and the razing of ancient burial mounds and hedgerows -- if they want to have stinking junkyards on their farmland, well
they have a right to do that.
But don't mess with HISTORY!
[Obviously I prefer urban life, and would like to see most of the world's humans living in cities -- that have been humanized by technology of course, not slums, with the countryside reserved for "natives" and a purely agricultural support population, and a few rich people who could afford the huge taxes I would impose on people who didn't want to live in cities.
Suburbs would be pretty much abolished outside of, say, a ten-mile-wide
circle around any city. Towns and villages are acceptable too, as long as they are not allowed to sprawl more than a mile or so from the town center, and any shopping mall would be MANDATED to be within walking distance of the local mayor's office, and every town or village MUST be on a railway line or a bus route.] Places like Wayland's Smithy would be freely accessible to anybody at all -- but they would have to get there by mini-vans from town or by their own two feet. Gee, I wish I could be dictator of the world and accomplish this!]
BEAR WITH ME -- I DON'T HAVE EVERYTHING I WANT SCANNED YET
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Copyright © 1998 by Grobius Shortling