Why did the builders of Stonehenge, West Kennett Long Barrow and Silbury Hill disappear….?


West Kennett Long Barrow
Credit: Robert Harvey/Natural World Photography

I have just been watching an episode of Blowing up History, in which the prehistoric stone monuments at Stonehenge, West Kennett and Silbury Hill were investigated. The discovery of a large upturned bell-shaped pottery jar at West Kennett led to the revelation that it was the work of the so-called Beaker People of Europe, not the indigenous people of Britain, who had built the amazing monuments.

The Beaker People were tall, blond and blue-eyed (one skeleton was 6’ 2”) while the indigenous people were smaller, sturdy and dark-haired. It seems the latter disappeared after the arrival of the Beaker People, and it was surmised that the new arrivals had killed them off with the wondrous bronze weapons they brought with them. Well, it may be true that they caused the eradication of the natives, but not in the way we leap to conclude. Examination of a skeleton revealed traces of the bacteria we know as the plague. So, does that explain the disappearance of the indigenous people? A “new” disease for which they had absolutely no resistance?

I am always prone to thinking of plague as having reached England in the medieval period, the main instance, of course, being the Black Death in the mid-14th century. At what point in our earlier history might it have arrived? I certainly didn’t imagine it being as far back as the creators of Stonehenge, West Kennet and Silbury Hill.

Was it a different strain of the plague? Does anyone know?


  1. Just posted this blog on Time Team Fans fb group and got loads of comments. Most of them did not register plague, but I will post the link anyway … https://m.facebook.com/groups/376406515870431/permalink/2373263186184744/
    Lots online on the subject since 2018, contradictory speculation on skeleton finds mostly. I would say life was pretty short for the average individual in those days anyway, with infant mortality an every day occurrence.

    Liked by 1 person

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