Burial Mounds

After Tuesday’s online lecture, I was interested in finding out more about the burial mounds and why they were built in certain areas specifically. According to an article I read online the presence of these burial mounds, also called barrows, around the area surrounding the Stonehenge may have represented the graves of noble people. Also, it is possible that they were built over a period of time and not immediately after battles as it was suggested before. There are two classes of barrows; the long barrow which is the older form and the round barrow which has three variants – the Bell, Disc and Bowl Barrow.

It is not surprising that the burial mounds were built using the most accessible materials which included flints, mold, chalk and sometimes, fragments of Sarsen. It was interesting to find out that some barrows did not contain a burial at all, and only a few contained burial skeletons as cremation was common. Buried bodies assumed a crouching position in most cases, and some people believed this was the natural position in death. My initial thought was that barrows were built mainly for funeral purposes. However, I learned that their primary function was to mark territories. This may explain why barrows are mostly found in open spaces.

Which open spaces were barrows built on? It is assumed that barrows were constructed close to settlements, where people would be close to their ancestors (Middle Bronze Age). However, the fact that the region of the mounds was originally considered sacred and isolated contradicts this belief. Looking back at the Giza Necropolis in Egypt, I can point out a couple of differences between these two archaeological sites. For example, while the tombs in the Giza Necropolis were skillfully constructed and even included different chambers the barrows were built simply and it is evident that they are not complex at all.

Beginning from the Neolithic Age, humans have increasingly interfered with the environment. It is possible that some forests were cleared to create open spaces for construction of the mounds. Also, it is believed that farming and grazing lands were used. I find it interesting because it appears that people in this particular area, just like the ancient Egyptians, may have believed in life after death. It appears to me that they put in extra effort to ensure their dead were buried well. Sometimes, grave goods were buried along with the dead, for them to use in their afterlife.

One thought on “Burial Mounds

  1. Humankind seems to have a bit of an obsession with life after death, or just finality in general. Few people truly want to believe that once life ends, it is over. It is sort of just human nature in a way, because we tend to feel like there has to be an endgame. A lot of people only act morally in life in order to hopefully achieve a better afterlife for themselves. People to this day still devote their life’s work to telling others of the right and wrong afterlives and how one gets there. I believe that belief in a higher power has much to do with why people believe so strongly in the need for a proper burial and important belongings to be buried with them. The Egyptians thought that the dead could use these items in the afterlife, and that they would show the prestige and nobility that they maintained in their lifetime.

    I also think it is important to people to commemorate the dead and show to others that come much later how important their lives were. The pyramids served as grand burial structures and burial mounds serve the same purpose. Even to this day we use vast cemeteries with ornate carved stone to show passers-by how important these people were to us. Sometimes we even leave a quote that sort of defines the personality or life of the lost loved one. Death has always been and will always be hard to accept and deal with. Since the dawn of time we have tried to figure out the best way to memorialize people, but in truth the only important part is for the dead’s lives to be remembered.

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