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    17. Ogbury Barrows

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    Chapter 18
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    We went to Ogbury Barrows on an archæological expedition. And as the
    very name of archæology, owing to a serious misconception incidental to
    human nature, is enough to deter most people from taking any further
    interest in our proceedings when once we got there, I may as well begin
    by explaining, for the benefit of those who have never been to one, the
    method and manner of an archæological outing.

    The first thing you have to do is to catch your secretary. The genuine
    secretary is born, not made; and therefore you have got to catch him,
    not to appoint him. Appointing a secretary is pure vanity and vexation
    of spirit; you must find the right man made ready to your hand; and when
    you have found him you will soon see that he slips into the onerous
    duties of the secretariat as if to the manner born, by pure instinct.
    The perfect secretary is an urbane old gentleman of mature years and
    portly bearing, a dignified representative of British archæology, with
    plenty of money and plenty of leisure, possessing a heaven-born genius
    for organisation, and utterly unhampered by any foolish views of his own
    about archæological research or any other kindred subject. The secretary
    who archæologises is lost. His business is not to discourse of early
    English windows or of palæolithic hatchets, of buried villas or of
    Plantagenet pedigrees, of Roman tile-work or of dolichocephalic skulls,
    but to provide abundant brakes, drags, and carriages, to take care that
    the owners of castles and baronial residences throw them open (with
    lunch provided) to the ardent student of British antiquities, to see
    that all the old ladies have somebody to talk to, and all the young ones
    somebody to flirt with, and generally to superintend the morals,
    happiness, and personal comfort of some fifty assorted scientific
    enthusiasts. The secretary who diverges from these his proper and
    elevated functions into trivial and puerile disquisitions upon the
    antiquity of man (when he ought rather to be admiring the juvenility of
    woman), or the precise date of the Anglo-Saxon conquest (when he should
    by rights be concentrating the whole force of his massive intellect upon
    the arduous task of arranging for dinner), proves himself at once
    unworthy of his high position, and should forthwith be deposed from the
    secretariat by public acclamation.

    Having once entrapped your perfect secretary, you set him busily to work
    beforehand to make all the arrangements for your expected excursion, the
    archæologists generally cordially recognising the important principle
    that he pays all the expenses he incurs out of his own pocket, and
    drives splendid bargains on their account with hotel-keepers, coachmen,
    railway companies, and others to feed, lodge, supply, and convey them at
    fabulously low prices throughout the whole expedition. You also
    understand that the secretary will call upon everybody in the
    neighbourhood you propose to visit, induce the rectors to throw open
    their churches, square the housekeepers of absentee dukes, and beard the
    owners of Elizabethan mansions in their own dens. These little
    preliminaries being amicably settled, you get together your
    archæologists and set out upon your intended tour.

    An archæologist, it should be further premised, has no necessary
    personal connection with archæology in any way. He (or she) is a human
    being, of assorted origin, age, and sex, known as an archæologist then
    and there on no other ground than the possession of a ticket (price
    half-a-guinea) for that particular archæological meeting. Who would not
    be a man (or woman) of science on such easy and unexacting terms? Most
    archæologists within my own private experience, indeed, are ladies of
    various ages, many of them elderly, but many more young and pretty,
    whose views about the styles of English architecture or the exact
    distinction between Durotriges and Damnonians are of the vaguest and
    most shadowy possible description. You all drive in brakes together to
    the various points of interest in the surrounding country. When you
    arrive at a point of interest, somebody or other with a bad cold in his
    head reads a dull paper on its origin and nature, in which there is
    fortunately no subsequent examination. If you are burning to learn all
    about it, you put your hand up to your ear, and assume an attitude of
    profound attention. If you are not burning with the desire for
    information, you stroll off casually about the grounds and gardens with
    the prettiest and pleasantest among the archæological sisters, whose
    acquaintance you have made on the way thither. Sometimes it rains, and
    then you obtain an admirable chance of offering your neighbour the
    protection afforded by your brand-new silk umbrella. By-and-by the dull
    paper gets finished, and somebody who lives in an adjoining house
    volunteers to provide you with luncheon. Then you adjourn to the parish
    church, where an old gentleman of feeble eyesight reads a long and
    tedious account of all the persons whose monuments are or are not to be
    found upon the walls of that poky little building. Nobody listens to
    him; but everybody carries away a vague impression that some one or
    other, temp. Henry the Second, married Adeliza, daughter and heiress of
    Sir Ralph de Thingumbob, and had issue thirteen stalwart sons and
    twenty-seven beautiful daughters, each founders of a noble family with a
    correspondingly varied pedigree. Finally, you take tea and ices upon
    somebody's lawn, by special invitation, and drive home, not without much
    laughter, in the cool of the evening to an excellent table d'hôte dinner
    at the marvellously cheap hotel, presided over by the ever-smiling and
    urbane secretary. That is what we mean nowadays by being a member of an
    archæological association.

    It was on just such a pleasant excursion that we all went to Ogbury
    Barrows. I was overflowing, myself, with bottled-up information on the
    subject of those two prehistoric tumuli; for Ogbury Barrows have been
    the hobby of my lifetime; but I didn't read a paper upon their origin
    and meaning, first, because the secretary very happily forgot to ask me,
    and secondly, because I was much better employed in psychological
    research into the habits and manners of an extremely pretty
    pink-and-white archæologist who stood beside me. Instead, therefore, of
    boring her and my other companions with all my accumulated store of
    information about Ogbury Barrows, I locked it up securely in my own
    bosom, with the fell design of finally venting it all at once in one
    vast flood upon the present article.

    Ogbury Barrows, I would have said (had it not been for the praiseworthy
    negligence of our esteemed secretary), stand upon the very verge of a
    great chalk-down, overlooking a broad and fertile belt of valley, whose
    slopes are terraced in the quaintest fashion with long parallel lines of
    obviously human and industrial origin. The terracing must have been done
    a very long time ago indeed, for it is a device for collecting enough
    soil on a chalky hillside to grow corn in. Now, nobody ever tried to
    grow corn on open chalk-downs in any civilised period of history until
    the present century, because the downs are so much more naturally
    adapted for sheep-walks that the attempt to turn them into waving
    cornfields would never occur to anybody on earth except a barbarian or
    an advanced agriculturist. But when Ogbury Downs were originally
    terraced, I don't doubt that the primitive system of universal tribal
    warfare still existed everywhere in Britain. This system is aptly summed
    up in the familiar modern Black Country formula, 'Yon's a stranger.
    'Eave 'arf a brick at him.' Each tribe was then perpetually at war with
    every other tribe on either side of it: a simple plan which rendered
    foreign tariffs quite unnecessary, and most effectually protected home
    industries. The consequence was, each district had to produce for its
    own tribe all the necessaries of life, however ill-adapted by nature for
    their due production: because traffic and barter did not yet exist, and
    the only form ever assumed by import trade was that of raiding on your
    neighbours' territories, and bringing back with you whatever you could
    lay hands on. So the people of the chalky Ogbury valley had perforce to
    grow corn for themselves, whether nature would or nature wouldn't; and,
    in order to grow it under such very unfavourable circumstances of soil
    and climate, they terraced off the entire hillside, by catching the silt
    as it washed slowly down, and keeping it in place by artificial

    On the top of the down, overlooking this curious vale of prehistoric
    terraces, rise the twin heights of Ogbury Barrows, familiar landmarks to
    all the country side around for many miles. One of them is a tall,
    circular mound or tumulus surrounded by a deep and well-marked trench:
    the other, which stands a little on one side, is long and narrow, shaped
    exactly like a modern grave, but of comparatively gigantic and colossal
    proportions. Even the little children of Ogbury village have noticed
    its close resemblance of shape and outline to the grassy hillocks in
    their own churchyard, and whisper to one another when they play upon its
    summit that a great giant in golden armour lies buried in a stone vault
    underneath. But if only they knew the real truth, they would say instead
    that that big, ungainly, overgrown grave covers the remains of a short,
    squat, dwarfish chieftain, akin in shape and feature to the Lapps and
    Finns, and about as much unlike a giant as human nature could easily
    manage. It maybe regarded as a general truth of history that the
    greatest men don't by any means always get the biggest monument.

    The archæologists in becoming prints who went with us to the top of
    Ogbury Barrows sagaciously surmised (with demonstrative parasol) that
    'these mounds must have been made a very long time ago, indeed.' So in
    fact they were: but though they stand now so close together, and look so
    much like sisters and contemporaries, one is ages older than the other,
    and was already green and grass-grown with immemorial antiquity when the
    fresh earth of its neighbour tumulus was first thrown up by its side,
    above the buried urn of some long-forgotten Celtic warrior. Let us begin
    by considering the oldest first, and then pass on to its younger sister.

    Ogbury Long Barrow is a very ancient monument indeed. Not, to be sure,
    one quarter so ancient as the days of the extremely old master who
    carved the mammoth on the fragments of his own tusk in the caves of the
    Dordogne, and concerning whom I have indited a discourse in an earlier
    portion of this volume: compared with that very antique personage, our
    long barrow on Ogbury hill-top may in fact be looked upon as almost
    modern. Still, when one isn't talking in geological language, ten or
    twenty thousand years may be fairly considered a very long time as time
    goes: and I have little doubt that from ten to twenty thousand years
    have passed since the short, squat chieftain aforesaid was first
    committed to his final resting-place in Ogbury Long Barrow. Two years
    since, we local archæologists--_not_ in becoming prints this
    time--opened the barrow to see what was inside it. We found, as we
    expected, the 'stone vault' of the popular tradition, proving
    conclusively that some faint memory of the original interment had clung
    for all those long years around the grassy pile of that ancient tumulus.
    Its centre, in fact, was occupied by a sepulchral chamber built of big
    Sarsen stones from the surrounding hillsides; and in the midst of the
    house of death thus rudely constructed lay the mouldering skeleton of
    its original possessor--an old prehistoric Mongoloid chieftain. When I
    stood for the first moment within that primæval palace of the dead,
    never before entered by living man for a hundred centuries, I felt, I
    must own, something like a burglar, something like a body-snatcher,
    something like a resurrection man, but most of all like a happy

    The big stone hut in which we found ourselves was, in fact, a buried
    cromlech, covered all over (until we opened it) by the earth of the
    barrow. Almost every cromlech, wherever found, was once, I believe, the
    central chamber of just such a long barrow: but in some instances wind
    and rain have beaten down and washed away the surrounding earth (and
    then we call it a 'Druidical monument'), while in others the mound still
    encloses its original deposit (and then we call it merely a prehistoric
    tumulus). As a matter of fact, even the Druids themselves are quite
    modern and commonplace personages compared with the short, squat
    chieftains of the long barrows. For all the indications we found in the
    long barrow at Ogbury (as in many others we had opened elsewhere) led us
    at once to the strange conclusion that our new acquaintance, the
    skeleton, had once been a living cannibal king of the newer stone-age in

    The only weapons or implements we could discover in the barrow were two
    neatly chipped flint arrowheads, and a very delicate ground greenstone
    hatchet, or tomahawk. These were the weapons of the dead chief, laid
    beside him in the stone chamber where we found his skeleton, for his
    future use in his underground existence. A piece or two of rude
    hand-made pottery, no doubt containing food and drink for the ghost, had
    also been placed close to his side: but they had mouldered away with
    time and damp, till it was quite impossible to recover more than a few
    broken and shapeless fragments. There was no trace of metal in any way:
    whereas if the tribesmen of our friend the skeleton had known at all the
    art of smelting, we may be sure some bronze axe or spearhead would have
    taken the place of the flint arrows and the greenstone tomahawk: for
    savages always bury a man's best property together with his corpse,
    while civilised men take care to preserve it with pious care in their
    own possession, and to fight over it strenuously in the court of

    The chief's own skeleton lay, or rather squatted, in the most
    undignified attitude, in the central chamber. His people when they put
    him there evidently considered that he was to sit at his ease, as he had
    been accustomed to do in his lifetime, in the ordinary savage squatting
    position, with his knees tucked up till they reached his chin, and his
    body resting entirely on the heels and haunches. The skeleton was
    entire: but just outside and above the stone vault we came upon a number
    of other bones, which told another and very different story. Some of
    them were the bones of the old prehistoric short-horned ox: others
    belonged to wild boars, red deer, and sundry similar animals, for the
    most part skulls and feet only, the relics of the savage funeral feast.
    It was clear that as soon as the builders of the barrow had erected the
    stone chamber of their dead chieftain, and placed within it his honoured
    remains, they had held a great banquet on the spot, and, after killing
    oxen and chasing red deer, had eaten all the eatable portions, and
    thrown the skulls, horns, and hoofs on top of the tomb, as offerings to
    the spirit of their departed master. But among these relics of the
    funeral baked meats there were some that specially attracted our
    attention--a number of broken human skulls, mingled indiscriminately
    with the horns of deer and the bones of oxen. It was impossible to look
    at them for a single moment, and not to recognise that we had here the
    veritable remains of a cannibal feast, a hundred centuries ago, on
    Ogbury hill-top.

    Each skull was split or fractured, not clean cut, as with a sword or
    bullet, but hacked and hewn with some blunt implement, presumably either
    a club or a stone tomahawk. The skull of the great chief inside was
    entire and his skeleton unmutilated: but we could see at a glance that
    the remains we found huddled together on the top were those of slaves or
    prisoners of war, sacrificed beside the dead chieftain's tomb, and eaten
    with the other products of the chase by his surviving tribesmen. In an
    inner chamber behind the chieftain's own hut we came upon yet a stranger
    relic of primitive barbarism. Two complete human skeletons squatted
    there in the same curious attitude as their lord's, as if in attendance
    upon him in a neighbouring ante-chamber. They were the skeletons of
    women--so our professional bone-scanner immediately told us--and each of
    their skulls had been carefully cleft right down the middle by a single
    blow from a sharp stone hatchet. But they were not the victims intended
    for the _pièce de résistance_ at the funeral banquet. They were clearly
    the two wives of the deceased chieftain, killed on his tomb by his son
    and successor, in order to accompany their lord and master in his new
    life underground as they had hitherto done in his rude wooden palace on
    the surface of the middle earth.

    We covered up the reopened sepulchre of the old cannibal savage king
    (after abstracting for our local museum the arrowheads and tomahawk, as
    well as the skull of the very ancient Briton himself), and when our
    archæological society, ably led by the esteemed secretary, stood two
    years later on the desecrated tomb, the grass had grown again as green
    as ever, and not a sign remained of the sacrilegious act in which one of
    the party then assembled there had been a prime actor. Looking down from
    the summit of the long barrow on that bright summer morning, over the
    gay group of picnicking archæologists, it was a curious contrast to
    reinstate in fancy the scene at that first installation of the Ogbury
    monument. In my mind's eye I saw once more the howling band of naked,
    yellow-faced and yellow-limbed savages surge up the terraced slopes of
    Ogbury Down; I saw them bear aloft, with beating of breasts and loud
    gesticulations, the bent corpse of their dead chieftain; I saw the
    terrified and fainting wives haled along by thongs of raw oxhide, and
    the weeping prisoners driven passively like sheep to the slaughter; I
    saw the fearful orgy of massacre and rapine around the open tumulus, the
    wild priest shattering with his gleaming tomahawk the skulls of his
    victims, the fire of gorse and low brushwood prepared to roast them, the
    heads and feet flung carelessly on top of the yet uncovered stone
    chamber, the awful dance of blood-stained cannibals around the mangled
    remains of men and oxen, and finally the long task of heaping up above
    the stone hut of the dead king the earthen mound that was never again to
    be opened to the light of day till, ten thousand years later, we modern
    Britons invaded with our prying, sacrilegious mattock the sacred privacy
    of that cannibal ghost. All this passed like a vision before my mind's
    eye; but I didn't mention anything of it at that particular moment to my
    fellow-archæologists, because I saw they were all much more interested
    in the pigeon-pie and the funny story about an exalted personage and a
    distinguished actress with which the model secretary was just then duly
    entertaining them.

    Five thousand years or so slowly wore away, from the date of the
    erection of the long barrow, and a new race had come to occupy the soil
    of England, and had driven away or reduced to slavery the short, squat,
    yellow-skinned cannibals of the earlier epoch. They were a pastoral and
    agricultural people, these new comers, acquainted with the use and abuse
    of bronze, and far more civilised in every way than their darker
    predecessors. No trace remains behind to tell us now by what fierce
    onslaught the Celtic invaders--for the bronze-age folk were presumably
    Celts--swept through the little Ogbury valley, and brained the men of
    the older race, while they made slaves of the younger women and
    serviceable children. Nothing now stands to tell us anything of the long
    years of Celtic domination, except the round barrow on the bare down,
    just as green and as grass-grown nowadays as its far earlier and more
    primitive neighbour.

    We opened the Ogbury round barrow at the same time as the other, and
    found in it, as we expected, no bones or skeleton of any sort, broken or
    otherwise, but simply a large cinerary urn. The urn was formed of coarse
    hand-made earthenware, very brittle by long burial in the earth, but not
    by any means so old or porous as the fragments we had discovered in the
    long barrow. A pretty pattern ran round its edge--a pattern in the
    simplest and most primitive style of ornamentation; for it consisted
    merely of the print of the potter's thumb-nail, firmly pressed into the
    moist clay before baking. Beside the urn lay a second specimen of early
    pottery, one of those curious perforated jars which antiquaries call by
    the very question-begging name of incense-cups; and within it we
    discovered the most precious part of all our 'find,' a beautiful
    wedge-shaped bronze hatchet, and three thin gold beads. Having no
    consideration for the feelings of the ashes, we promptly appropriated
    both hatchet and beads, and took the urn and cup as a peace-offering to
    the lord of the manor for our desecration of a tomb (with his full
    consent) on the land of his fathers.

    Why did these bronze-age people burn instead of burying their dead? Why
    did they anticipate the latest fashionable mode of disposal of corpses,
    and go in for cremation with such thorough conviction? They couldn't
    have been influenced by those rather unpleasant sanitary considerations
    which so profoundly agitated the mind of 'Graveyard Walker.' Sanitation
    was still in a very rudimentary state in the year five thousand B.C.;
    and the ingenious Celt, who is still given to 'waking' his neighbours,
    when they die of small-pox, with a sublime indifference to the chances
    of infection, must have had some other and more powerful reason for
    adopting the comparatively unnatural system of cremation in preference
    to that of simple burial. The change, I believe, was due to a further
    development of religious ideas on the part of the Celtic tribesmen above
    that of the primitive stone-age cannibals.

    When men began to bury their dead, they did so in the firm belief in
    another life, which life was regarded as the exact counterpart of this
    present one. The unsophisticated savage, holding that in that equal sky
    his faithful dog would bear him company, naturally enough had the dog
    in question killed and buried with him, in order that it might follow
    him to the happy hunting-grounds. Clearly, you can't hunt without your
    arrows and your tomahawk; so the flint weapons and the trusty bow
    accompanied their owner in his new dwelling-place. The wooden haft, the
    deer-sinew bow-string, the perishable articles of food and drink have
    long since decayed within the damp tumulus: but the harder stone and
    earthenware articles have survived till now, to tell the story of that
    crude and simple early faith. Very crude and illogical indeed it was,
    however, for it is quite clear that the actual body of the dead man was
    thought of as persisting to live a sort of underground life within the
    barrow. A stone hut was constructed for its use; real weapons and
    implements were left by its side; and slaves and wives were ruthlessly
    massacred, as still in Ashantee, in order that their bodies might
    accompany the corpse of the buried master in his subterranean dwelling.
    In all this we have clear evidence of a very inconsistent, savage,
    materialistic belief, not indeed in the immortality of the soul, but in
    the continued underground life of the dead body.

    With the progress of time, however, men's ideas upon these subjects
    began to grow more definite and more consistent. Instead of the corpse,
    we get the ghost; instead of the material underground world, we get the
    idealised and sublimated conception of a shadowy Hades, a world of
    shades, a realm of incorporeal, disembodied spirits. With the growth of
    the idea in this ghostly nether world, there arises naturally the habit
    of burning the dead in order fully to free the liberated spirit from the
    earthly chains that clog and bind it. It is, indeed, a very noticeable
    fact that wherever this belief in a world of shades is implicitly
    accepted, there cremation follows as a matter of course; while wherever
    (among savage or barbaric races) burial is practised, there a more
    materialistic creed of bodily survival necessarily accompanies it. To
    carry out this theory to its full extent, not only must the body itself
    be burnt, but also all its belongings with it. Ghosts are clothed in
    ghostly clothing; and the question has often been asked of modern
    spiritualists by materialistic scoffers, 'Where do the ghosts get their
    coats and dresses?' The true believer in cremation and the shadowy world
    has no difficulty at all in answering that crucial inquiry; he would say
    at once, 'They are the ghosts of the clothes that were burnt with the
    body.' In the gossiping story of Periander, as veraciously retailed for
    us by that dear old grandmotherly scandalmonger, Herodotus, the shade of
    Melissa refuses to communicate with her late husband, by medium or
    otherwise, on the ground that she found herself naked and shivering with
    cold, because the garments buried with her had not been burnt, and
    therefore were of no use to her in the world of shades. So Periander, to
    put a stop to this sad state of spiritual destitution, requisitioned all
    the best dresses of the Corinthian ladies, burnt them bodily in a great
    trench, and received an immediate answer from the gratified shade, who
    was thenceforth enabled to walk about in the principal promenades of
    Hades among the best-dressed ghosts of that populous quarter.

    The belief which thus survived among the civilised Greeks of the age of
    the Despots is shared still by Fijis and Karens, and was derived by all
    in common from early ancestors of like faith with the founders of Ogbury
    round barrow. The weapons were broken and the clothes burnt, to liberate
    their ghosts into the world of spirits, just as now, in Fiji, knives and
    axes have their spiritual counterparts, which can only be released when
    the material shape is destroyed or purified by the action of fire.
    Everything, in such a state, is supposed to possess a soul of its own;
    and the fire is the chosen mode for setting the soul free from all
    clogging earthly impurities. So till yesterday, in the rite of suttee,
    the Hindoo widow immolated herself upon her husband's pyre, in order
    that her spirit might follow him unhampered to the world of ghosts
    whither he was bound. Thus the twin barrows on Ogbury hillside bridge
    over for us two vast epochs of human culture, both now so remote as to
    merge together mentally to the casual eyes of modern observers, but yet
    in reality marking in their very shape and disposition an immense, long,
    and slow advance of human reason. For just as the long barrow answers in
    form to the buried human corpse and the chambered hut that surrounds and
    encloses it, so does the round barrow answer in form to the urn
    containing the calcined ashes of the cremated barbarian. And is it not a
    suggestive fact that when we turn to the little graveyard by the church
    below we find the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body, as
    opposed to the pagan belief in the immortality of the soul, once more
    bringing us back to the small oblong mound which is after all but the
    dwarfed and humbler modern representative of the long barrow? So deep is
    the connection between that familiar shape and the practice of
    inhumation that the dwarf long barrow seems everywhere to have come into
    use again throughout all Europe, after whole centuries of continued
    cremation, as the natural concomitant and necessary mark of Christian

    This is what I would have said, if I had been asked, at Ogbury Barrows.
    But I wasn't asked; so I devoted myself instead to psychological
    research, and said nothing.
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