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Wayland's Smithy, tomb (detail)
|Type||long barrow and chamber tomb|
Wayland's Smithy is a Neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site located near the Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle, at Ashbury in the English county of Oxfordshire (historically in Berkshire). It is situated very near to The Ridgeway, an ancient road running along the Berkshire Downs.
The later mound was 185 feet long and 43 feet wide at the south end. Its present appearance is the result of restoration following excavations undertaken by Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson in 1962-1963. They demonstrated that the site had been built in two different phases, a timber chambered oval barrow built around 3700 BC and the second stone chambered long barrow in around 3400 BC.
The wooden mortuary house mainly consisted of a paved stone floor with two large posts at either end. A single crouched burial had been placed at one end and the mostly disarticulated remains of a further 14 individuals were scattered in front of it. Analysis of these remains indicated that they had been subjected to excarnation prior to burial and deposited in possibly four different phases. Postholes at one end have been interpreted as supporting a timber facade. The whole monument was covered by an earth barrow with material excavated from two flanking ditches and measured around 20m in length.
The later stone tomb consists of two opposing transept chambers and terminal chamber, along with the longer entrance chamber, this gives the burial area a cruciform appearance in plan. It is classified by archaeologists as one of the Severn-Cotswold tombs. The large trapezoidal earth barrow erected over it was revetted with a stone kerb and its material was again excavated from two large flanking ditches. Excavation in 1919 revealed the burials of seven adults and one child.
The site is important as it illustrates the transition from timber chambered barrows to stone chamber tombs over a period which may have been as short as 50 years.
Wayland's Smithy is one of many prehistoric sites associated with Wayland or Wolund, a Germanic smith-god. The name was seemingly applied to the site by the Saxons who settled in the area some four thousand years after Wayland's Smithy was built.
According to legend, a traveller whose horse has lost a shoe can leave the animal and a silver coin on the capstone at Wayland's Smithy. When he returns next morning he will find that his horse has been re-shod and the money gone. It is conjectured that the invisible smith 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 making votive offerings to a local god.
In recent years, at this and other ancient sites, such as the West Kennet Long Barrow, some visitors have left objects, including flowers, nuts, grain, fruit, and feathers.
Author Patricia Kennealy-Morrison has a protagonist named Turk Wayland in her Rennie Stride mystery series, and sets a scene at the end of the fourth book, "A Hard Slay's Night: Murder at the Royal Albert Hall", at Wayland's Smithy.
Rudyard Kipling, in his interlinked collection of stories Puck of Pook's Hill, set many of the stories near the Smithy, and told of the arrival of the smith god in the first.
Smithers first name is Wayland in the hit US sitcom the Simpsons. This is believed to be a reference to Wayland's Smithy.
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