In 1685 Dr Toope of Marlborough found human bones at West Kennett Long Barrow; "…and stored myself with many bushels, of which I made a noble medicine that relieved many of my distressed neighbours."
In 1859 John Thurnham excavated 4 and a half metres of the West burial chamber. However, the landowner refused permission to move any stones, so Thurnham's digging was confined to a small area. A thick layer of chalk rubble containing bone, flint and pottery sherds was dug away from within the W chamber, revealing one infant (skull only) and 5 adult burials.
* Teenage adult male in SE corner, buried in a crouched or sitting position;
* 50 Year old male in centre of chamber of uncertain posture with skull fractures which may have occurred before burial;
* 30 -35 Year old male in SW corner, lower jaw separated from skull;
* 30 -35 Year old male in NW corner, lower jaw separated from skull (flint scraper near skull);
* One arm, lower jaw and a few other bones of a Middle aged adult male;
Thurnham also found Neolithic Peterborough Ware and Beaker pottery, a bone pin and a stone bead.
1955 the large-scale excavation by Piggot and Atkinson discovered that there were actually 4 further chambers (SW, SE, NW, NE), which had been lying undisturbed since the sealing of the barrow around 3550BP.
Disordered bone assemblages in all 4 chambers plus cremated remains in northwest corner of NE chamber. A total of at least 40 individuals of both sexes and all ages. Fewer skulls than bodies were found. All chambers and corridor filled with rubble. Sherds mostly Peterborough Ware. Highlights from the 4 chambers include:
SE chamber - Adult Male and Female lying together with sherd of Windmill Hill bowl between them. The top of bowl's rim decorated with 'pseudo-cord' impressions. Jumble of many infant bones including a foetus of 5 - 6 months. Bone Pins, needles and scoops.
SW chamber - Polish marks on stone north wall where stone axe blades had been sharpened. Burials of 9 adults, a youth, a child and two infants. Animal bones including Ox, Sheep/Goat, Pig, Dog, Jackdaw and Polecat.
NW chamber - A mass of disarticulated bones. Only one young adult male in articulated state. A Bell Beaker pot featuring incised geometric diamond patterns came from the 'secondary fill' above the burials. The secondary filling was a deliberate act, sealing the chambers.
NE chamber - An old man had been placed on his left side on stone slabs partially above an older burial, vividly illustrating the length of use of the site (500 to 1000 years). Brownish Black Windmill Hill pottery sherds. Flint Leaf Arrowhead is the only flint find in primary context, but plenty of edges, scrapers and flakes in secondary fill where a chalk mace head with bored hole and pierced shells were found.
6 Roman coins found in topsoil outside the eastern most stone of chamber entrance.
Information sourced from Stuart Piggott's
The West Kennet Long Barrow Excavations 1955-56 , HMSO, 1962, London
ACCOUNT OF FINDS IN THE WEST KENNET LONG BARROW