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29 June 2017

Avebury stone circle is far the more visitor friendly than Stonehenge. It is so large a village encroaches within it – but a lot of the stones are missing. There are some good stories abroad concerning the fate of the stones but clearly some were simply buried. Others were broken up and used in walls and houses in the village and on nearby farms. A somewhat zealous cleric was involved in the destruction of some of the stones – but that is a story for another day. All this took place in the 17th and 18th centuries and it is thought the circle was fairly intact up until then. The reason it is in the news is because archaeologists from Leicester University have done a resistivity survey with an interesting discovery – a square of stones existed on the site. Circles came into fashion after 3200BC and the square arrangement presumably dates prior to this – see www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/29/avebury-stone-circle-contains-hi…


Avebury is 330m in diameter, the largest stone circle in Europe. The stones are enormous. The rsistivitu survey was also able to pinpoint where some of the stones were buried. In contrast, the square structure was just 30m on each side, and comprised just 17 small standing stones. It is not entirely a few feature as Alexander Keiller's excavations in 1939 actually discovered the structure – or the building that existed within the stone square. Keiller thought it might have been a medieval cattle shed. He also found a number of small standing stones in a line, leading towards the bigger 6m stone known as the Obelisk. The new survey found Keiller's stones were erected on and aligned with the building and it is now thought the building probably dates to the Neolithic era. Similar buildings have been detected at other Neolithic sites.

Avebury is cared for under the wing of the National Trust. The NT has its own archaeolists – and these can cover a wide geograpical area. The local NT archaeologist, Nick Snashall, took part in the survey, along with Leicester University Mark Gillings (and local volunteers).

The same story is at www.independent.co.uk/news/avebury-stone-circle-prehistoric-square-wilts… … where it is pointed out this is the first prehistoric suare of upright stones found in Britain – although others may exist but have not been recognised. It is not clear if the stones were contemporary with the building, or were erected when it went out of use. The building is described as 'substantial' which suggests it was not a house. It also says the square was inside a 100m circle (there were two of these inside the larger circle). Lots we don't know.

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