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The Ancestors - Avebury World Heritage site - West Kennet Long Barrow



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


The West Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic tomb or barrow, situated on a prominent chalk ridge, near Silbury Hill, one-and-a-half miles south of Avebury in Wiltshire, England.

The site was recorded by John Aubrey in the 17th century and by William Stukeley in the 18th century. 

It is part of the overall complex that includes the Avebury henge, Silbury Hill, The Sanctuary and Windmill Hill.

Archaeologists classify it as a chambered long barrow. It has two pairs of opposing transept chambers and a single terminal chamber. 

The stone chambers are located at one end of one of the longest barrows in Britain at 100 m: in total it is estimated that 15,700 man-hours were expended in its construction. The entrance consists of a concave forecourt with a facade made from large slabs of sarsen stones which were placed to seal entry.

Archaeologists have assumed it is for burial, but given the total sensory deprivation possible in this barrow, it was more likely to be a part of the overall mechanisms for initiation and used to provoke rebirth experiences. 


The construction of the West Kennet Long Barrow commenced about 3600 BC, which is some 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge, and it was in use until around 2500 BC.

The mound has been damaged by indiscriminate digging, but archaeological excavations in 1859 and 1955-56 found at least 46 burials, ranging from babies to elderly persons.  Note that the use of the barrow for rebirth is not contradicted by finding skeletons in barrows, as barrows were often used for burial as well, after all what better way to meet spirits than to be buried alive with your dead ancestors,  and it was unfortunately not unusual for some initiates to die of fright [and occasionally suffocation] during rebirth.  The section on rebirth on the site provides more examples

Recent re-analysis of the dating evidence suggests that the 46 people all died within 20 – 30 years of each other, and that the tomb was open for 1,000 years.

The latest excavations also revealed that the side chambers occur inside an exact isosceles triangle, whose height is twice the length of its base.  This is actually important spiritually, as it both combines triangle symbolism, but also physically acts as a channel for energy.  The section on dowsing with a pendulum may help in understanding here.

Archaeologists found the barrow filled to the roof with earth and stones, among which were found pieces of Grooved ware, Peterborough ware and Beaker pottery, charcoal, bone tools, and beads. All this rather indicates that an influx of people without the same beliefs threatened the sanctuary and rather than have the place desecrated, the people filled the barrow and made it look like a hill.

The finds from the site are displayed at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, including some of the most impressive beakers from Britain.


The source of the experience

The Ancestors

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps



Sensory deprivation