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Ogbury Barrows
by [?]

It was on just such a pleasant excursion that we all went to Ogbury Barrows. I was overflowing, myself, with bottled-up information on the subject of those two prehistoric tumuli; for Ogbury Barrows have been the hobby of my lifetime; but I didn’t read a paper upon their origin and meaning, first, because the secretary very happily forgot to ask me, and secondly, because I was much better employed in psychological research into the habits and manners of an extremely pretty pink-and-white archaeologist who stood beside me. Instead, therefore, of boring her and my other companions with all my accumulated store of information about Ogbury Barrows, I locked it up securely in my own bosom, with the fell design of finally venting it all at once in one vast flood upon the present article.

Ogbury Barrows, I would have said (had it not been for the praiseworthy negligence of our esteemed secretary), stand upon the very verge of a great chalk-down, overlooking a broad and fertile belt of valley, whose slopes are terraced in the quaintest fashion with long parallel lines of obviously human and industrial origin. The terracing must have been done a very long time ago indeed, for it is a device for collecting enough soil on a chalky hillside to grow corn in. Now, nobody ever tried to grow corn on open chalk-downs in any civilised period of history until the present century, because the downs are so much more naturally adapted for sheep-walks that the attempt to turn them into waving cornfields would never occur to anybody on earth except a barbarian or an advanced agriculturist. But when Ogbury Downs were originally terraced, I don’t doubt that the primitive system of universal tribal warfare still existed everywhere in Britain. This system is aptly summed up in the familiar modern Black Country formula, ‘Yon’s a stranger. ‘Eave ‘arf a brick at him.’ Each tribe was then perpetually at war with every other tribe on either side of it: a simple plan which rendered foreign tariffs quite unnecessary, and most effectually protected home industries. The consequence was, each district had to produce for its own tribe all the necessaries of life, however ill-adapted by nature for their due production: because traffic and barter did not yet exist, and the only form ever assumed by import trade was that of raiding on your neighbours’ territories, and bringing back with you whatever you could lay hands on. So the people of the chalky Ogbury valley had perforce to grow corn for themselves, whether nature would or nature wouldn’t; and, in order to grow it under such very unfavourable circumstances of soil and climate, they terraced off the entire hillside, by catching the silt as it washed slowly down, and keeping it in place by artificial barriers.

On the top of the down, overlooking this curious vale of prehistoric terraces, rise the twin heights of Ogbury Barrows, familiar landmarks to all the country side around for many miles. One of them is a tall, circular mound or tumulus surrounded by a deep and well-marked trench: the other, which stands a little on one side, is long and narrow, shaped exactly like a modern grave, but of comparatively gigantic and colossal proportions. Even the little children of Ogbury village have noticed its close resemblance of shape and outline to the grassy hillocks in their own churchyard, and whisper to one another when they play upon its summit that a great giant in golden armour lies buried in a stone vault underneath. But if only they knew the real truth, they would say instead that that big, ungainly, overgrown grave covers the remains of a short, squat, dwarfish chieftain, akin in shape and feature to the Lapps and Finns, and about as much unlike a giant as human nature could easily manage. It maybe regarded as a general truth of history that the greatest men don’t by any means always get the biggest monument.