Avebury Stone Circle

  • Period: Neolithic (about 5000 years old)
  • Type: Henge & Long Barrow
  • Address:
  • OS Grid Ref:

Standing Stones

The site is a large henge and several ring of standing stone surrounding Avebury. Although the henge is not perfectly circular, it has a diameter of about 420 metres. Avebury's present appearance owes much to Alexander Keiller who began by purchasing the site (thanks to his family's marmalade fortune) in the 1930's and who excavated and re-erected many stones.

There is a huge inner ditch (below right) that was 21 metres wide and 11 metres deep, with four entrances at the cardinal compass points. Just inside the ditch, is a grand circle of massive and irregular sarsen stones (originally composed of at least 98 stones but now having only 27) enclosing approximately 28 acres of land.

In the Avebury museum can be found the remains of a prehistoric female child approximately 3-4 years old and nicknamed 'Charlie'. The skeleton was discovered during excavations at the Neolithic Windmill Hill site by Alexander Keiller in 1929. It has been on public display in the Avebury museum since it opened.

West Kennet Long Barrow

West Kennet Long Barrow is one of several prehistoric monuments that are part of the Avebury complex of Neolithic sites, such as Silbury Hill. Thought to have been constructed around 3500BC, it was likely to be in use until around 2200BC. The barrow extends 100m long and 2.4m wide, while the burial chamber is 10m and consists of five seperate chambers, two on either side of a narrow passage, which then opens up into a further chamber at the far end. The barrow was sealed with chalk rubble and large sarcen boulders that now guard the entrance.

In 1685 Dr Toope of Marlborough dug up human bones in order to make "noble medicine" with which to treat his patients. The barrow was first excavated in 1859 by John Thurnham, who cleared 4.5 metres and then again from 1955 - 56 by Stuart Piggot and Richard Atkinson who opened the rest of the inner chamber. These digs found at least 46 burials ranging from babies to elderly people, although many were incomplete disarticulated skeletons.

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