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Myths and Mysteries of Wayland Smith


by Clive A. Spinage

The only book about one of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain and the Wayland myth


Wayland Smith¹s Cave on the Berkshire Downs is the most important Stone Age burial site in Britain. First recorded as ŒWayland¹s Smithy¹ by the Anglo-Saxons over a thousand years ago, it is the only place in Britain to keep alive the ancient legend of Wayland Smith.

In this, the only book on the site, Clive Spinage describes the Œcave¹ ­ in fact an exposed chambered long barrow ­ and the examinations by the first antiquaries, followed by the archaeological investigations of the twentieth century, up to the restoration of the site to its presumed original appearance in 1963.

The barrow actually contains two burial sites. The first, constructed 6000 years ago, was a wooden structure covered with earth. Up to 300 years later the chambered stone tomb was constructed with its huge sarsen stones (which later became the Œcave¹), signifying an important change in burial practice. There is evidence of the site being used for witchcraft in modern times.

The book also examines the different versions of the Wayland Smith legend. These were mainly kept alive in Teutonic mythology but had their origins in Mycenean times in the Aegean region 3500 years ago. It is suggested that the legend may derive from the earliest Bronze Age workers in precious metals, such as the ŒAmesbury archer¹ unearthed in 2002 near Stonehenge.

Popularisation of the legend by Sir Walter Scott in his romance Kenilworth focused interest on a site that had hitherto been largely forgotten.

With 43 illustrations and photographs.

Clive Spinage is a retired African wildlife ecologist with an interest in local topograpy.

£10 pbk 102pp 978-1-902279-16-9