Avebury is possibly the most spectacular of the ancient
megalithic monuments in the British Isles, far surpassing in
size the more well-known Stonehenge. Like Stonehenge, it is
located in Wiltshire. Enough of the monument has survived
that a picture of what it looked like when it was completed can
be reconstructed.
The large ritual area is surrounded by a circular earth embankment
some 1200 feet in diameter. Immediately inside of
the embankment is a ditch, and on the inner edge of the ditch
there once stood a circle of some 100 stones; a number of which
once formed the western half of the circle remain in place. Inside
the large circle were two inner circles, both of approximately
340 feet in diameter. In the center of the circle to the
north is a cove, but its purpose is unknown. There was a single
stone, surrounded by a rectangle of smaller stones, in the center
of the southern circle. All of the stones appeared unfinished
and were gathered from the surrounding countryside. Similar
stones lie scattered on the landscape of the region to this day.
Avebury has been inhabited since late Neolithic times.
Then, around 2600 B.C.E., the southernmost inner circle was
erected, and it appears to have been used for a variety of ritual
purposes. The northernmost inner circle was erected soon afterwards.
It was quite different in that it had a double ring of
stones. It has been suggested that it was possibly used for funeral
rites. Next, a ditch was dug around the entire site and the
earth taken from the excavation was used to form the rampartlike
outer circle. A double line of stones, generally called West
Kennet Avenue, led from Avebury to the south toward an associated
monument about a mile away. There were at one time
as many as 200 hundred stones along the avenue, but less than
20 remain today. Avebury probably was completed around
2000 B.C.E. and utilized for more than a millennium.
As the megaliths in Britain have been studied, Avebury has
been placed in the larger context of sites scattered across the
land. It has been studied in light of the alignments its stones
might offer to various prominent planetary bodies. Alexander
Thom, who pioneered such study, did very accurate measures
of the remaining stones, and has suggested they demonstrate
a quite sophisticated knowledge of the Moon’s movements.
Others have noted that so many stones are missing that determining
alignments is quite difficult if not impossible. The circles
were probably places in which a large number of the people
in the surrounding countryside gathered, but their essential
functions remain a matter of widespread speculation.
Brown, Peter Lancaster. Megaliths and Masterminds. New
York Charles Scribners’s Sons, 1979.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Avebury
Burl, Aubrey. Rings of Stone. New Haven, Conn. Ticknor &
Fields, 1980.
———. The Stone Circles of the British Isles. New Haven,
Conn. Yale University Press, 1976.
Thom, Alexander. Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford Oxford
University Press, 1967.

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