They have been out of fashion for about 5,500 years. But a Wiltshire farmer is hoping to bring back the long barrow – pre-historic tomb – by building one on his land.
Tim Daw, 52, has been granted planning permission to create a 50m (164ft) walk-in burial mound at his family farm near Devizes. Several members of the public have already signed up to have their ashes buried there. It will contain seven circular chambers lined with niches for storing ash-filled urns. When full, the barrow could house the remains of up to 2,400 people.
Mr Daw, who works as a steward at Stonehenge, plans to start construction shortly. He will charge up to £1,000 for a "family niche" holding six to eight urns. The working barrow will be constructed of local materials to a design of his making. The entrance will be aligned so that the sun shines down the central chamber on the Winter Solstice.
Mr Daw, an atheist, says the project is a response to the decline in conventional Christian burials. "Unless people are particularly religious, they often don't know what to do with the ashes of their loved ones," says Mr Daw. "I realised I had a very special site here on my farm, so it sort of made sense. The council said it was an 'unusual application' but has granted permission."
The All Cannings Long Barrow will be made from local sarsen stones, similar to those used at Stonehenge and Avebury. This part of Wiltshire, the North Wessex downs, is sprinkled with sarsen stones, left behind after the last ice age. One of the best preserved long barrows in Britain is at West Kennet, six miles away. It was built in about 3,600 BC, almost 1,000 years before Stonehenge was begun, and is thought to have been in use for about 900 years.
Barrows were traditionally built for the social elite. Ordinary citizens were cremated or buried in less elaborate graves. Britain's best-known burial mound, although more recent, is at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk – where a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon king was found buried in a wooden ship, surrounded by priceless grave goods.
Mr Daw graduated in agricultural sciences from Oxford, but became interested in archaeology because of the Iron Age site at All Cannings. As well as running his father's 220-acre arable farm, he started working at Stonehenge two years ago. His other business is in durable shoe laces. Tired of his shoe laces wearing out, he developed his own. They are so tough, he promises a refund if they don't outlast your boots.