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EARTH MYSTERIES

Wayland's Smithy

Wayland's Smithy is a neolithic long barrow located just off the the Ridgeway on the Berkshire Downs about a half mile from Uffington Castle (an Iron Age hill fort) and the The Uffington White Horse. It was built between 3,700 and 3, 400 B.C.E. The barrow is first mentioned by name in a charter in 955 C.E. It was sketched by John Aubry around 1670. The present appearance is the result of restoration following excavations undertaken by Richard Atkinson. It was constructed in two periods. The first construction was that of a ridged wooden mortuary hut with a stone floor, where 14 bodies were found, surrounded by sarsen boulders and heaped over with chalk. The mortuary hut disappeared with the construction of the present arrangement of chambers. The mound is 185 feet long and 43 feet wide at the south end.


A series of gigantic sarsen stones, the tallest standing 10 feet high, are arranged in a line at the entrance at the south end. From the entrance extends a passage 20 feet long with an opposing pair of chambers and with a terminal chamber at the end. Except for the rearmost chamber, the capstones of the lateral chambers and gallery are missing.

An early photograph of the barrow shows the state of the stones before the restoration was undertaken. It also provides a view through the trees, which have since grown much larger, to the opposite side of the Vale of the White Horse. As in other instances, Wayland's Smithy occupies a site within the larger context of the surrounding landscape and probably in line-of-sight of other important sites.

Wayland's Smithy is one of many prehistoric sites associated with Wayland, the Norse god of blacksmithing. According to legend, a traveller whose horse had lost a shoe could leave his horse and some money of the capstone of the tomb and return the next morning to find the horse shod and the money gone. It is thought that the invisible smithy may have been linked to this site for many centuries before the Saxons recognized him as Wayland. The Ancient Britons may have been accustomed to offer money here, perhaps as a votive offering to the local god.

In recent years, at this and other ancient sites, such as the West Kennet Long Barrow, offerings have been left in the form of flowers, cornmeal, nuts, grain, fruit, and feathers, presumably by visiting Neo-Pagans.



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