Avebury Prehistoric Site, England

Here is my report of a recent visit to the famous Avebury prehistoric site in southern England.Location is about 25 miles north of Avebury's more famous 'sister' site of Stonehenge which in turn is 88 miles west of London.

Here is an aerial view of the site today showing the site with encroachment of modern (and not so modern) housing and roads. 

Here is an artist's impression of the site post construction, about 2500 BC.

Here is an image illustrating the massive size of Avebury vs the much smaller Stonehenge site.The outer stone circle at Avebury is the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world.

 Date of construction

The site dates from around 2600 BC which was during the Neolithic period. The digging of the great ditch and building of the bank at Avebury henge was undertaken first. Around a century later standing stones in circles within the henge and two avenues running from it appeared.

 View of ditch and stones.

The people responsible for construction

The Neolithic (New Stone Age) came to end around 2100 BC. Until this time the British Isles was populated by people with dark to black skin and these were the people who built Stonehenge and many other stone monuments across the islands.However, between 2450 BC and 2000 BC the dark-skinned populace was suddenly displaced and/or absorbed by a wave of lighter skinned and blue -eyed migrants who had originated from the steppes of Ukraine and Russia.The immigrants are better known as 'beaker folk' owing to the unique style of their pottery. More information can be found here. In essence Avebury would not have been built by the ancestors of the current occupants of the British Isles.

Aspect of stones

Scale and construction

Circumference is about three-quarters of a mile with diameter of 340m. The visible ditch is 20m across and 3-4 meters deep enclosing around 11 hectares (28 acres). When first constructed the site would have been sharper and more distinct. It is likely the excavated banks would have had a brilliant white hue owing to the chalky nature of the local geology.

The excavation was undertaken by people using a combination of bare hands, antler picks and rakes.It has been estimated that 1.5m work hours was required to dig the ditch. This points to a highly organised society.  

 Aspect of stone circle

Source of the stones

These were probably simply scattered around the local landscape, as some still are today,.The rock is sarsen, one of the hardest, most intractable rocks of the British Isles.This is a hard, grey sandstone with quartz grains glittering in a silica mix.

 Illustration of road bisecting the stone circle.(Vehicle is an ancient, Citroen 2CV, a model which was last produced in 1990.)

Moving the stones into position

This would have required a herculean effort by the builders.The 100 stones weigh up to 60 tonnes each. Moving this vast amount of material may have been undertaken using a combination of ropes and rollers (tree trunks).

Aspect of the stones

Purpose of the site

This is open to speculation. Latest thinking points to veneration of the dead with specific stones representing ancestors. 

Illustration of sheer size of some of the stones.

Overall, an excellent site, especially for persons interested in ancient history.


Popular posts from this blog

Reconstructed Roman Villa

Glen Quaich, one of Scotland's best backroads tour routes

Fort Augustus, a popular visitor site on southern tip of Loch Ness