This is Avebury, the Largest Stone Circle in England (in the World?)

The precinct is huge (three quarters of a mile in circumference), and was apparently the center of whatever kingdom existed in that time (about 2400 BC). Apart from the stone circle itself, which is so vast (Aubrey made the analogy that it is to Stonehenge as a cathedral is to a parish church) that the modern village is contained within it, with room for pastures as well. The pub is in the very center, and a fine pub it is although very stockbrokerish -- rich folk drive all the way down from London in their Rolls's to have lunch there. The surrounding area is full of ancient remains of this civilization: Silbury Hill (the largest man-made burial chamber outside of Egypt), Stonehenge of course, West Kennet Long Barrow (a massive chambered burial mound), and hundreds of standing stones, avenues lined with stelae, tumuli, minor 'henges', etc. etc.

A wooden house/barn behind one of the standing stones. Possibly not original (there is a lot of 'theme-parking' going on in this area these days), but probably typical of the sort of building that existed in the area in all its prior history, maybe a bit grand in a way, so perhaps a noble's hall. Most people lived in wicker tepee-type huts with mud-sealed walls. The sheer scope of this place is amazing, as dull and bucolic it is now. A stone like the one in the picture is twice as high as a basketball player. These stones were not carved or shaped like the ones at Stonehenge; they are arranged like a gap-toothed rampart around a massive embankment and ditch, which makes it a symbolic fortress (i.e,. religious not civil). What that religion was we will never know -- NOT Druids, they came later --, but it was certainly very wealthy and 'universal' for its time. Only the stones and earthworks now remain. No traces of a Royal Palace or military citadel, if indeed this civilization had need for such things.

This is the quadrant that is under pasturage. Christian bigots in the Middle Ages tried to destroy the stone circle. Several stones were removed, mutilated, or cast down. Victorian excavators found the skeleton of a man underneath a stone that had been toppled over. Serves him right, and his accidental death under the falling monolith seems to have put a stop to the vandalism.

Shows the big ditch that surrounded the site, with the village off in the background. It seems rather odd that such an important tribal site was neglected by the Romans (i.e., they didn't build a city there as they did in similar places), but this site had probably become a derelict backwater place well before the Romans. As the capital of the Beaker Folk civilization, it was no doubt 'Carthagized' by the invading Iron Age Celts and declared taboo by the Druids. But that also protected it from major destruction. It was a case of let-sleeping-dogs-lie, as was reinforced by the death of that foolish iconoclast. Avebury now remains a benign and pastoral place, with the exception of the tourist industry's activities, and as the Celts and Romans wisely did, there was no major resettlement here, not even a Motorway in modern times, or a railway station, or any of that stuff. No MacDonald's or KFC, just that fine pub.
[But I haven't been there since 1980, so things could have changed.]

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Copyright © 1998 by Grobius Shortling

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