My journey into mapmaking started when I came across a 200-year-old reference to an oddly deformed, 5,500-year-old skull buried in one of the 300 Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds) found within walking distance of the Stonehenge prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. When I can spare time away from my software business, I offer tours around this unique landscape and study the barrows myself. It’s fascinating to imagine who the barrows’ inhabitants were—like the one with the intriguingly deformed skull—and what their lives were like thousands of years ago.
|Photo provided and licensed by http://www.stonesofstonehenge.org.uk|
Using the Visualization Query Language, I added a search box to the map, where people can enter keywords to find barrows by all kinds of criteria, including what artifacts were found. Almost all the barrows have been plundered for their contents in the past few centuries, but happily a great many of these treasures eventually found their way into the wonderful museums in Devizes and Salisbury.
Not only are all the research links in one place, but we also get a visualization of the barrows around the Stonehenge landscape. That helps us ponder questions such as why barrows were clustered together, and which materials were buried where and at different times in prehistory.
I’ve had people ask me to expand my map to include the barrows in the Avebury landscape, or even those in the neighbouring counties of Dorset and Hampshire. That’d be an enormous undertaking, so it’s a project for someone else. To help anyone interested in pursuing that goal, I’ve kept the map code as simple as possible. I’ve posted the Google Docs barrow spreadsheet for download so other people can use it as a template for their own maps.
While much about the barrows remains a mystery—such as what happened to the skeleton of the person with the deformed skull—I’d like to think that future researchers, using Google Maps like mine, may help to uncover some of the answers.