Evidence that the Avebury stone circle and its associated monuments show knowledge of past Polar positions
by S. F. Wells
The Avebury prehistoric monuments
Avebury Monuments Map. Fig 1
The Avebury prehistoric monuments are situated in the county of Wiltshire in England. They are at 51 degrees north, 1.5 degrees west.
They consist of several main parts. There is the main Avebury bank/ditch and stone circle itself. There is Silbury hill about 2km to the south of the main circle. There is West Kennet long barrow a further 1 km south. East Kennet long barrow is about 2 km SE of West Kennet Long barrow. Windmill hill (a hill fort) is 3 km NW of Avebury and the Sanctuary is about 3km SE of Avebury. There are a plethora of other small barrows, standing stones and features within 5km radius of the centre of Avebury stone circle. See Fig 1 for a general map of the area.
According to conventional wisdom built circa 2600-2100 BC. Although the official English heritage guidebook does admit it is ‘undated by modern dating methods ..’.
It is the largest Henge monument in Britain. The main stone circle is approximately 175m in Radius with a large ditch and bank outside. It also contains two smaller circles inside (Each bigger than Stonehenge!) of about 50 m radius.
The whole monument has been extensively disturbed. Many stones were taken down and buried in the Middle Ages at the behest of the church who thought the structure pagan. Many stones were broken for building material throughout the 1600 – 1800’s. The village of Avebury has been built in the centre of the circle with several roads going through. The site was reconstructed in the 1930’s with those remaining stones repositioned as thought correct at the time. The main circle was thought to have 98 stones. All of many tonnes in weight and some of the remaining ‘portal’ stones around the 4 gateways are colossal. The ‘Swindon stone’ for example is estimated to be around 65 tonnes. The two inner rings were thought to have had 27 and 29 stones in. Although the northern inner ring of 27 stones also had three cove stones and the southern inner ring had a central stone called the obelisk which had been described at around 1720 but has since been broken up. Each inner ring complex therefore had 30 main stones. See Fig 2.
Avebury circle and ditch today. Fig 2
Silbury hill is the largest prehistoric man made mound in Europe. It is 39.5 m high. After two centuries of archaeological investigation its purpose is unknown. It is not a tomb. It is thought to date from 2660 BC. Internally it is a stepped circular pyramid. Originally built in chalk it would have gleamed white as would the Avebury bank and ditch.
West Kennet long barrow.
Thought to date from 3700 BC. It has been thoroughly investigated and consists of several north and south chambers in which burials were found. It was disturbed prior to scientific investigation. It is aligned East-West along its long axis.
Again dating from 3700 BC. It is connected to Avebury by a standing stone avenue that is now virtually entirely gone. This avenue is thought to date from ‘only’ 2300 BC. Some sort of circular timber building seems to have stood in the centre of a rough stone circle on the site. Purpose unknown.
This is thought to be the earliest feature of all the monuments but contemporary with West Kennet and the Sanctuary at about 3700 BC. It is thought to be the largest Neolithic causewayed camp ever found. Three concentric ring ditches enclose an area of about 8.5 ha.
East Kennet long barrow.
This feature appears not to have yet been scientifically investigated. No information about it appears in the English heritage leaflet on Avebury save for its position on the map.