Walking around a Prehistoric Monument in Wiltshire

Thursday, April 23, 2015 11:09:00 AM

 

Looking across Avebury Stones

 

To be able to travel back in time and see a man-made Neolithic landscape that is over 5,000 years old is pretty incredible. 

The stone circle at Avebury, Wiltshire is the largest in Europe. It's14 times bigger than Stonehenge, was built about 500 years earlier, it takes up an area of 28 acres and is a mile to walk all the way around.  Avebury village dates back to Saxon times, so there has been a settlement within the prehistoric stone circle for about 1,000 years.





Information board showing how Avebury would have looked in Neolithic times

 

My coach group touring Wiltshire were full of eager anticipation about their visit to the Neolithic henge monument at Avebury.  However before we got to the site I was able to point out Windmill Hill, where, as far back as 3,500 years BC, the late stone age people had formed a settled community that lived on the hill.  They had started farming and domesticating animals many years before Avebury Stone Circle was built. There's nothing there now, but archaeological digs on Windmill Hill had uncovered lots of buried objects such as stone tools and pottery showing that the local people were trading and socialising with people who had travelled with the pots and tools that they had made from places as far away as Cornwall and the Lake District.

As we drove through Avebury my group were starting to spot some of the large unhewn standing stones. It was a glorious day, perfect for a walk and they were keen to get off the coach and find out more.  We parked in the car park and walked towards the site.  An information board on route helped with the interpretation of the stone circle.  Originally 170 -180 stones had been dragged into position from the surrounding countryside on top of wooden rollers and placed upright within a very large circle consisting of a deep ditch surrounded by an earth bank.  The diagram enabled me to point out the large outer stone circle and two separate stone circles within. Over the years many of the stones have disappeared, but there were enough to get an idea of the importance of area and marvel at the construction and man-hours taken to create it all. The reason for building can only be guesswork but it's thought that it was used as a religious site.  The Keiller museum in the stables of Avebury Manor House was well worth a visit because the stone circle was part of a group of prehistoric monuments and the museum helped to put it all into context.  After our walk, a visit to the museum and a stop for some refreshments in the café, we continued our journey passing alongside the West Kennet Avenue which took us towards the Sanctuary and on to see Silbury Hill, the tallest man-made hill in prehistoric Europe.  We stopped along the road to see the West Kennet Long Barrow in the distance to the left and then look up at Silbury Hill on our right.  The reason for building the hill is still a great mystery, despite a number of archaeological digs to find some clues. 
We continued our journey through Wiltshire with eyes peeled for a sight of a crop circle or a white horse on the hillside - more of Wiltshire's mysteries!






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