Outer Circle

Outer Circle

Stone Avenue

Stone Avenue

 

What is now termed the Mesolithic period in Britain lasted from circa 11600 to 7800 BCE, at a time when the island was heavily forested and when there was still a land mass, called Doggerland (hence the Dogger Bank), which connected Britain to continental Europe. During this era, those humans living in Britain were hunter-gatherers, often moving around the landscape in small familial or tribal groups in search of food and other resources. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that there were some of these hunter-gatherers active in the vicinity of Avebury during the Late Mesolithic, with stray finds of flint tools, dated between 7000 and 4000 BCE, having been found in the area. The most notable of these discoveries is a densely scattered collection of worked flints found 300 m (980 ft) to the west of Avebury, which has led archaeologists to believe that that particular spot was a flint working site occupied over a period of several weeks by a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers who had set up camp there.

 

In the 4th millennium BCE, around the start of the Neolithic period in Britain, British society underwent radical changes. These coincided with the introduction to the island of domesticated species of animals and plants, as well as a changing material culture that included pottery. These developments allowed hunter-gatherers to settle down and produce their own food. As agriculture spread, people cleared land. At the same time, they also erected the first monuments to be seen in the local landscape, an activity interpreted as evidence of a change in the way people viewed their place in the world. During the Late Neolithic, British society underwent another series of major changes. Between 3500 and 3300 BCE, these prehistoric Britons ceased their continual expansion and cultivation of wilderness and instead focused on settling and farming the most agriculturally productive areas of the island. Late Neolithic Britons also appeared to have changed their religious beliefs, ceasing to construct the large chambered tombs that are widely thought by archaeologists to have been connected with ancestor veneration. Instead, they began the construction of large wooden or stone circles, with many hundreds being built across Britain and Ireland over a period of a thousand years.

 

The chronology of Avebury's construction is unclear. It was not designed as a single monument, but is the result of various projects that were undertaken at different times during late prehistory. Aubrey Burl suggests dates of 3000 BC for the central cove, 2900 BC for the inner stone circle, 2600 BC for the outer circle and henge, and around 2400 BC for the avenues. The construction of large monuments such as those at Avebury indicates that a stable agrarian economy had developed in Britain by around 4000–3500 BCE. The people who built them had to be secure enough to spend time on such non-essential activities. Avebury was one of a group of monumental sites that were established in this region during the Neolithic. Its monuments comprise the henge and associated long barrows, stone circles, avenues, and a causewayed enclosure. These monument types are not exclusive to the Avebury area. For example, Stonehenge features the same kinds of monuments, and in Dorset there is a henge on the edge of Dorchester and a causewayed enclosure at nearby Maiden Castle.

 

The Avebury monument is a henge, a type of monument consisting of a large circular bank with an internal ditch. The henge is not perfectly circular and measures over 1,000 metres (1,090 yd) in circumference. The only known comparable sites of similar date are only a quarter of the size of Avebury. The henge's construction was an immense task; the ditch was cut through hard chalk with antler picks and stone mauls, and it is estimated that over 90,000 m3 of material weighing 165,000 tons was excavated. The ditch is currently 20–24 metres wide, but originally was narrower at 12–15 metres with sides sharply dropping to a bottom around 10 metres deep. The purpose which Neolithic people had for the Avebury monument has remained elusive, although many archaeologists have postulated about its meaning and usage. Archaeologist Aubrey Burl believed that rituals would have been performed at Avebury by Neolithic peoples in order "to appease the malevolent powers of nature" that threatened their existence, such as the winter cold, death and disease

 

The Alexander Keiller Museum features the prehistoric artifacts collected by archaeologist and businessman Alexander Keiller, which include many artifacts found at Avebury. The museum is located in the 17th-century stables gallery. The nearby 17th-century threshing barn houses a permanent exhibit gallery about Avebury and its history. Founded by Keiller in 1938, the collections feature artifacts mostly of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age date, with other items from the Anglo-Saxon and later periods. The museum also features the skeleton of a child nicknamed "Charlie", found in a ditch at Windmill Hill, Avebury. The Museum, café, shop and toilets are wheelchair accessible. Assistance Dogs Welcome. Dedicated disabled parking in Avebury Village. There are disabled toilets.

 

Location : Avebury, Marlborough , Wiltshire SN8 1RF

Transport: Swindon (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : Stagecoach in Swindon service 49. Connect2 line 4.

Opening Times : Daily 10:00 - 18:00

Tickets : Free

Tel: 01672 539250

Avebury Manor from South

Avebury Manor

Avebury Manor + Gardens

 

Avebury Manor house was built on or near the site of a Benedictine cell or priory of St Georges de Boscherville, founded in 1114. Subsequently the site passed into the ownership of Fotheringhay College in 1411. Fragments of the religious foundation were incorporated into the later house. The earliest parts of the present house were probably built after Sir William Dunch of Little Wittenham in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) purchased the estate in 1551. It was some way from most of his lands which centred on Wittenham, but he appears to have purchased it because of an interest in ancient monuments such as the Avebury Stone Circles. In the 1580s, he passed it on to his younger son, Walter Dunch, whose daughter, Deborah, Lady Moody, grew up at the manor before emigrating to America and founding Gravesend in Brooklyn in 1645. Walter Dunch's widow, Deborah, subsequently married Sir James Mervyn (who served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1596), and the couple were responsible for a major extension or remodelling of the house around 1601. In 1787 William Hallett of Morning Walk fame, bought the estate along with Faringdon House, Berkshire.

 

The house has had many extensions and changes over the centuries, the final addition being the West Library which was added by the family of Leopold C. D. Jenner who occupied the house in the early 20th century. The house was leased and restored by Alexander Keiller who took an intense interest in Avebury henge in the late 1930s. The Garden at Avebury Manor was completely redesigned in the early 20th century by the Jenner family and forms a good backdrop to the property. Medieval walls surround a series of garden rooms containing raised walks, flower gardens, rose garden and an orchard. Some of the hedges are very old and there is a good display of topiary. The site is wheelchair accessible. Guide dogs are permitted.

 

Location : Avebury, Marlborough , Wiltshire SN8 1RF

Transport: Swindon (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : Stagecoach in Swindon service 49. Connect2 line 4.

Opening Times : Thursday to Tuesday 11:00 to 17:00; Closed Wednesdays

Tickets : Free

Tel: 01672 538016