The Dolmen and Long Barrow Connection

Extract from the book: The Stonehenge Enigma

Palisade and Excarnation connection with Dolmen and Long Barrows

This was the conclusion of Phase I at Stonehenge – a facility that had a dual purpose. Firstly, it was a place of healing; we have seen in previous sections that the stones, when used in water, could heal the sick. But it would have been clear that not all the people who came to Stonehenge to be cured could be successful.

The monument would also have been used as a place for the dead and the journey to the afterlife.  Indeed, we still use the same custom and practice today in our modern hospitals. These are our centres for the sick, but hospitals are also the place where we keep the dead in a mortuary prior to their burial. Our Mesolithic ancestors had the same philosophy of sickness and death and kept them close to each other at Stonehenge.


Figure 45– Excarnation Platform – these are called Dolmans by archaeologists who are at a loss for their true purpose

To understand the construction of Stonehenge, you must be able to interpret our ancestors’ beliefs and motives. The dead had to return to the land in the sky, and the only way that could happen was through giving the body to the only creatures that shared the sky with the ancestors – the birds.

Archaeologists have found evidence of these excarnation practices at other sites in Britain. One similarity of these sites lies in the presence of a palisade to protect the bodies from animals other than the birds who fed on the corpses.  Such a palisade was found at Stonehenge in the early 1990s, during excavations in the new visitor’s entrance. The palisade successfully cuts the natural peninsula off from the heavily wooded mainland to which it’s attached.

As there are several main burial mounds on higher ground overlooking Stonehenge, we can only imagine that the entire site was sacred, and may have been completely cleared of woodland so that it appeared much as it does today, laid bare of trees and bushes.  One of the remaining 15 barrows overlooking Stonehenge was constructed at the same time, to take the excarnated bones from the site; this area is known as Normanton Long Barrow. Unfortunately, not much of the barrow still exists, but it would have had a distinctive boat shape, surrounded by a moat. This design was a representation of an object and concept

Figure 46– Typical layout of a Long Barrow showing the distinctive boat shape – where the bones would be placed ready for the journey to the afterlife.

the Mesolithic people knew well, as it was their symbol for survival and everyday life.

Archaeologists know of the palisade and its possible use as a type of shield for the site (in fact, some recently suggested it was a snow barrier)!

But without the groundwater river, it doesn’t make sense, as you could just walk around the thing to gain access. The only possible reason for the palisade is to join the two areas of river, isolating the peninsula as a sacred place and preventing anything without a boat accessing the site, allowing the dead to go to their maker without being eaten by land animals.

Further information can be found about Dolmen and Long Barrows in the Book The Stonehenge Enigma or the DVD documentary at: