If I thought the first part of the adventure had taken ages, the next bit seemed to take even longer. She says it didn’t, and that I was just getting a bit excited… but I don’t know so much. The little, winding roads take longer, especially when you don’t know where you are going! But ‘ventually, we parked up in some trees and they let me out.
It had been touch and go. The ball guy had put my leash on a few minutes before we arrived, so he could let me out faster… and I forgot myself. I hold up my paw… the excitement was just too much and I bit clean through the leash. Still, it had been a long one, so they managed, even if it did mean I couldn’t explore quite as well. Except, once they showed me how to get through the funny kissing gate thing, and made sure there were no chaseable things in the fields, they took the leash off and let me run 🙂
We were a long way up the hills by the time they stopped to let me have another drink. I tried to excavate my way into the bag they’d brought with them, but they still didn’t get the message. Well, she wouldn’t, ’cause she didn’t know… and the ball-guy had forgotten that he’d packed my special tennis ball in there. I’m not sure it qualifies as archaeology exactly, but it is a bit ancient these days… still, it is the one I love and I knew it was there!
It is a bit weird this ‘knowing’ business. You might say I could smell it, and, given a few of the places it has been over the years, that is prob’bly true. But I wonder how much they ‘know’ by using all the senses you two-legses pretty much ignore these days? You can learn a lot from the world just by feeling it… and almost as much comes in unawares, if you are just open to it. But, two-legses are weird anyway… and mine more than most!
Anyway, we went through this tunnel of trees and finally came to another of those gates. I knew how to work them now, but blow me down if they didn’t expect me to climb over walls next! I soon had that sorted though, and we came out into a walled enclosure with a huge mound to explore, about 178 feet long, 60 feet wide and nearly 14 feet high, she told me.
They said the place was called Belas Knap, and I think they were almost as excited as me to finally be there. ‘Knap’ means the top or crest of a hill in Old English, and ‘Belas’ might mean beautiful, if it comes from Latin, though why it should come from a different language, I don’t know. I think it works better if it comes from the same language as its people… and their descendants, we know, had a god called Belenos, the ‘shining one’. Beltane was named for him, ’cause he was a sun god and rode his chariot across the sky… and I think ‘shining’ sort of fits, especially with the pale stone of the dry stone walls catching the light on the mound.
They told me that a small circle of stones was the first thing built, and that is still buried right at the heart of the barrow. The mound was later raised over it, and the bones that were found there show that they belonged to people who died about five thousand seven hundred years ago. The portal of three standing stones, infilled with walling, was never really an entrance. Maybe it was to stop uninvited tomb raiders, or maybe it was a spirit door to let the dead pass between the worlds.
The mound makes horns around the doorway, giving a small lawn that might have been used for rituals. It must have been seen as a very special place, though, because the skeletons of a young man and four children were buried there, along with flint flakes and animal bones that could have been offerings. Once again I was told that any bones were out of bounds…
From the sky, they said the whole mound looks like an axe-head. They had seen something similar in several places before and wonder how that relates to the ceremonial axes that were traded throughout Europe. Or maybe it is a womb… a place where the dead can be reborn…
From the ground, it is a strange place, as the burial chambers are all on the sides of the mound. We walked first around to the far end, where the chamber is open to the sky, almost as if it continues the passage made for the spirits to enter and exit the mound as they had their lives. The two-legses sat here a while, talking about birthing and rebirthing, until the people had all gone and we had the place to ourselves.
There were human skull fragments found in this bit. My two-legses have this odd habit of having their meals with the dead, and I don’t mind if there are things flitting about half-unseen either, so I got more water and some treats…including half of their lunch…
Then, when it was quiet, we went exploring. The whole place is ringed by a ditch, which would probably have been deeper long ago.
We went to the northwest chamber first. Fourteen skeletons were found in this chamber, which was once sealed. They were all ages, from child to adult and two of them, a woman and a child, showed they had died from horrific head wounds. The people who built the mound were probably herding, hunting and farming. Were the wounds from a raid or an accident?
There is no trace of any sinister feeling. These places almost always feel welcoming, as if they were built so that the ancestors could still be visited and talked with. It has a stone worn smooth as if it had been a seat for centuries and they said they immediately felt ‘plugged in’ when they sat there.
I really liked this place, and so did they. My two seemed to think that the stone seat might have been for asking for the ancestor’s advice. I just felt at home, so we settled down to meditate for a while and get a feel for the place.
There were two girls who stuck their heads in the chamber. They didn’t seem to see us, so I went out to ‘vestigate. One of them said hello to me, but they seemed to want to leave in a hurry when my two called me back from in the shadows…
On the opposite side of the mound there is another chamber. There were a lot of squeaks when she stuck her head in there and saw the standing stones and the way the shadows lit up.
She wouldn’t let me dig in there, though I wanted to. She said it had already been done and that a dozen skeletons had been found there, one of them seated. She wondered whether the seated ancestor was the one you talked to from the other seat…
I was happy in there too. Granted, I like my sofa and the stones that have been put down to protect the floor are a bit rough, but I could see exactly why they wanted to stay there all night…
The stones were a bit of a problem for her at the last chamber, which is no more than a crawl space. Even I had to duck to get in there, but if you do manage to get in, and she half did, you can see where there is a side chamber with a blocking stone.
The bones of two men and two women were found here, with flint, animal bones and pottery. It is almost like a private vault and she wondered about the people who had been laid to rest in there…
I really didn’t want to leave and neither did they, but it was going to be a long drive back and no stopping for church-raiding either… just the odd stop for me.
Still, if I promise not to eat my leash again, and try not to squeak with excitement quite so much, maybe they will take me on another adventure soon?
I am pretty sure that I could help them learn about these places. I hope so… I had a wonderful day!
You never know, I might make it into one of their books again…