Session 2. Cursus, barrow, cemetery

Rebecca Williams tells the story in words, Jessica Swinburne does it in pictures.

This week we explored more of the landscape around Stonehenge by looking at barrows. Barrows are burial mounds where the body was placed underneath with grave goods. To start with we handled replicas of some of the objects that have been found inside barrows; these included a bronze axe head, a bronze dagger, gold hair clips and beaker pottery. This led the group to really think about who these people were that were being buried in the barrows. What did these grave goods mean to them? Where had they travelled from? And why was this landscape such a spiritually important place?

We were then given maps and headed out to do some barrow hunting. Our task was to figure out which barrow is which and where they are located. We stood on top of the largest barrow named the Monarch of the Plain. Standing on this barrow with its higher vantage point gave a new perspective to the countryside and the elements we were in. The wind was blowing quite fiercely and although there were breaks in the cloud where the sun shone, it was a cold autumn day. We celebrated this connection to the weather and the changing of the season in a way that maybe our ancestors would have done by singing. The groups’ singing must be improving as this week we did a three part round.

After this we moved towards more barrows and here we caught a glimpse of Stonehenge in the distance. After standing on top of the Monarch of the Plain we began to discuss the barrows as a spiritual place for the dead and should we have stood on one. Questions were discussed such as is doing this disrespectful or are we bringing modern day perceptions of death and burial to ancient monuments? We decided that this time we would not walk on the barrow but sit beside it. Here we took part in a guided meditation session where we had to imagine ourselves walking and meeting somebody. From feedback afterwards it was clear that the barrows inspired many different ideas and feelings in the group with everyone having their own unique experience

This week the session was a lot quieter and more reflective. Everyone was chatting, open and willing to share but it felt more of an individual experience. It was about connecting on a personal level with the landscape by listening to the birds and the wind, feeling the cold, sitting in the grass and being surrounded by these amazing burial monuments.

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