Discovered in 1869 when workmen digging for road stone came across the stones of its central chamber, the tomb was excavated in the same year by Sir John Lubbock (famed for introducing the word Neolithic, meaning New Stone Age, into the English language). During this excavation, the remains of animals, Neolithic pottery and bones belonging to as many as 40 human skeletons were uncovered. These can now be viewed at the Ashmolean Museum ( University of Oxford ). The bodies of the individuals buried here are believed to have been first exposed to the elements, to speed their decomposition, before their ceremonial burial in the tomb.
Burial galleries, such as Giant's Grave, were typically utilised by several generations, the skeleton occupants of the grave being ritually dismembered and moved around as more members of the community needed to be accommodated here. Sir John Lubbock believed the cairn to be circular and it was not until the later excavation in 1937 that Professor Glyn Daniel discovered the site to be a long barrow.
Giant's Grave, Parkmill
When Giant's Grave was originally built, it was located on the bank of a winding stream. Over the intervening centuries, however, this stream has become subterranean and now flows beneath the monument. Some theories suggest that tombs such as this were constructed to honour a water goddess as well as bury their dead.