History Explorer: Neolithic treatment of the dead

As part of our series in which experts nominate British locations to illustrate historical topics, Richard Bradley visits Wayland's Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow once believed to be the home of a Saxon god

Professor Richard Bradley investigates the Neolithic tomb of Wayland's Smithy. The stone monument we see today hides an earlier wooden structure that held the remains of 14 people. (Photo by Oliver Edwards)

This article was first published in the October 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine

In a lush tree plantation along the Ridgeway National Trail lie the remains of a great Neolithic stone tomb, known for centuries as Wayland’s Smithy. The monument has long attracted speculation, not least because it takes its name from the Saxon god Wayland who forged the mail shirt worn by Beowulf in the epic poem of the same name. Legend has it that if you tether your horse at the site overnight, leaving with it a sixpence, the animal will have been re-shod by the morning.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now