A village in Wiltshire, southern England, 129 kilometers (80 miles) west of London, which is the site of Avebury Circle, possibly the most spectacular and one of the largest of the ancient megalithic monuments in the British Isles, far surpassing in size the more well-known Stonehenge.
Enough of the monument has survived that a picture of what it looked like when it was completed can be reconstructed. The megalithic shrine consists of a circular enclosure surrounded by a huge ditch, originally 12 meters (40 feet) wide and 9 meters (30 feet) deep, and a large circular external earth bank, broken by entrances from the north, east, south, and west. Inside the ditch are the remains of a circle of 100 standing stones, up to 4 meters (14 feet) high and 335 meters (1,100 feet) in diameter, the largest stone circle in Europe. Inside it are two smaller circles, about 98 meters (320 feet) across. In the center of the circle to the north is a cove, but its purpose is unknown. There is a single stone, surrounded by a rectangle of smaller stones, in the center of the southern circle.
All of the stones, termed megaliths, appear unfinished and are of local sandstone, called sarsen, which occurs as large boulders on the adjacent chalk downs. From the south entrance an avenue of paired standing stones, since destroyed but now partially restored, linked Avebury with the so-called Sanctuary, a double circle of stones located about 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) away, which was destroyed in the 18th century.
Avebury has been inhabited since late Neolithic times. Then, around 2600 BC, the southernmost inner circle was erected, probably by the Bronze Age Beaker People, 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 BC and utilized for more than a millennium.
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Later the site was occupied by a Saxon village. Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, and Windmill Hill, site of a Neolithic causewayed camp, are close by. Some occultists consider the area as a psychic power center. The site has a long history as a center of allegedly paranormal activity, including reports of apparitions, eerie noises and strange lights. In the 1980s the locality was a major site for crop circles.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (3) Brown, Peter Lancaster, Megaliths and Masterminds, Charles Scribnerss Sons.
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