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West Kennet Long Barrow      Home Page  >>      Gallery >>   Salisbury >>     FAQ’s >>

West Kennet Long Barrow Entrance

The West Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic tomb or barrow, situated on a prominent chalk ridge, near Silbury Hill, one-and-a-half miles south of Avebury in Wiltshire, England. The site was recorded by John Aubrey in the 17th century and by William Stukeley in the 18th century. Archaeologists classify it as a chambered long barrow and one of the Severn-Cotswold tombs. It has two pairs of opposing transept chambers and a single terminal chamber used for burial. The stone burial chambers are located at one end of one of the longest barrows in Britain at 100 m: in total it is estimated that 15,700 manhours were expended in its construction. The entrance consists of a concave forecourt with a facade made from large slabs of sarsen stones which were placed to seal entry.

The construction of the West Kennet Long Barrow commenced about 3600 BC, which is some 400 years before the first stage of Stonehenge, and it was in use until around 2500 BC. The mound has been damaged by indiscriminate digging, but archaeological excavations in 1859 and 1955-56 found at least 46 burials, ranging from babies to elderly persons. The bones were disarticulated with some of the skulls and long bones missing. It has been suggested that the bones were removed periodically for display or transported elsewhere with the blocking facade being removed and replaced each time.

The latest excavations also revealed that the side chambers occur inside an exact isosceles triangle, whose height is twice the length of its base. Artefacts associated with the burials include Neolithic Grooved ware similar to that found at nearby Windmill Hill.

It is thought that this tomb was in use for as long as 1,000 years and at the end of this period the passage and chamber were filled to the roof by the Beaker people with earth and stones, among which were found pieces of Grooved ware, Peterborough ware and Beaker pottery charcoal, bone tools, and beads. Stuart Piggott, who excavated this mixture of secondary material, suggested that it had been collected from a nearby 'mortuary enclosure' showing that the site had been used for ritual activity long after it was used for burial. The finds from the site are displayed at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

Michael Dames put forward a composite theory of seasonal rituals, in an attempt to explain the Long Barrow and its associated sites (the Avebury henge, Silbury Hill, The Sanctuary and Windmill Hill).



Silbury Hill   Home Page  >>      Gallery >>   Salisbury >>     FAQ’s >>Silbury in Autumn

Silbury Hill is a prehistoric artificial chalk mound near Avebury in the English county of Wiltshire. It is part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site, and lies at grid reference SU099685.

At 40 metres (131 ft) high, Silbury Hill – which is part of the complex of Neolithic monuments around Avebury, which includes the Avebury Ring and West Kennet Long Barrow – is the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe and one of the largest in the world; it is similar in size to some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids of the Giza Necropolis. Its original purpose however, is still highly debated. Several other important Neolithic monuments in Wiltshire in the care of English Heritage, including the large henges at Marden and Stonehenge, may be culturally or functionally related to Avebury and Silbury.

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Stonehenge    Home Page  >>      Gallery >>   Salisbury >>     FAQ’s >>

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists believe the stone monument was constructed anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating in 2008 suggested that the first stones were erected in 2400–2200 BC, whilst another theory suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC

The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 in a co-listing with Avebury Henge monument. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.

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Avebury     Avebury ring Home Page  >>      Gallery >>   Salisbury >>    FAQ’s >>

Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. Unique amongst megalithic monuments, Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe, and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain. It is both a tourist attraction and a place of religious importance to contemporary Pagans.

Constructed around 2600 BC, during the Neolithic, or 'New Stone Age', the monument comprises a large henge that is, a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

By the Iron Age, the site had been effectively abandoned, with some evidence of human activity on the site during the Roman occupation. During the Early Mediaeval, a village first began to be built around the monument, which eventually extended into it. In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones around the henge, both for religious and practical reasons. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury during the 17th century, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeological investigation followed in the 20th century, led primarily by Alexander Keiller, who oversaw a project of reconstructing much of the monument.

Avebury is owned and run by the National Trust, a charitable organisation who keep it open to the public. It has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as a World

Heritage Site, in the latter capacity being seen as a part of the wider prehistoric landscape of Wiltshire known as Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites.

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World Heritage sites in South Wiltshire

The Amesbury Archer      Home Page  >>      Gallery >>   Salisbury >>      FAQ’s >>

The Amesbury Archer is an early Bronze Age man whose grave was discovered during excavations at the site of a new housing development in Amesbury near Stonehenge. The grave was uncovered in May 2002, and the man is believed to date from about 2300 BC. He is nicknamed the "archer" because of the many arrowheads that were among the artefacts buried with him. Had he lived near the Stones, the calibrated radiocarbon dates for his grave and dating of Stonehenge suggest the sarsens and trilithons at Stonehenge may have been raised by the time he was born, although a new bluestone circle may have been raised at the same time as his birth.

His grave had the greatest number of artifacts ever found in a British Bronze Age burial. Among those discovered were: Five funerary pots of the type associated with the "Beaker culture"; three tiny copper knives; 16 barbed flint arrowheads; a kit of flint-knapping and metalworking tools, including cushion stones that functioned as a kind of portable anvil and that suggests he was a coppersmith; and some boar's tusks. On his forearm was a black Stone wrist-guard. A similar red wrist-guard was by his knees. With the second wrist-guard was a shale belt ring and a pair of gold hair ornaments (the earliest gold objects ever found in England).

Research using oxygen isotope analysis in his tooth enamel suggests that the man may have originated from an alpine region of central Europe. An eroded hole in his jaw showed that in life he had suffered from an abscess, and his missing left kneecap suggests that he had an injury that left him with a painful lingering bone infection.His skeleton is now on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury.


Durrington Walls     Home Page  >>      Gallery >>  Salisbury >>     FAQ’s >>

Durrington Walls is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It is 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury. Excavations on the site by a team led by the University of Sheffield, support an estimate of a community of several thousand, thought to be the largest one of its age in north-west Europe. At 500m in diameter, the henge is the largest in Britain and recent evidence suggests that it was a complementary monument to StonehenDurrington Wallsge.






What visibly remains of Durrington Walls today is the ‘walls’ of the henge monument – in fact the eroded remains of the inner slope of the bank and the outer slope of the internal ditch. This now appears as a ridge surrounding a central basin. On the eastern side the separate ditch and bank are much more discernible although badly eroded by ploughing. Originally the ditch was some 5.5m deep, 7m wide at its bottom and 18m wide at the top. The bank was in some areas 30m wide. There were two entrances through the bank and ditch – at the north western and south eastern ends. There may also have been an entrance to the south and the north east, although these may have been deliberately blocked. The henge enclosed several timber circles and smaller enclosures – not all of which have been excavated. Several Neolithic house floors have been found next to and under the eastern bank of the henge. Their density suggests that there was a very large village on the sloping river bank on this side.

The henge sits on high ground that slopes south east toward a bend in the River Avon, and is thus considerably higher at its north western side than at its south eastern edge. The south eastern entrance is roughly 60m from the riverbank.

The henge has two roads passing through it – an old toll road, and a modern banked road constructed in 1967. In the past military barracks were constructed at the north eastern end of the henge, and some houses are constructed on the western bank. The land on the western side of the toll road is owned by the National Trust, forming part of its Stonehenge Landscape property. It has free entry.

Although there is evidence of some early Neolithic activity at the site, most of the structures seem to have been built in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. At some point around approximately 2600BC, a large timber circle was constructed. It is now known as the Southern Circle. The circle was oriented southeast towards the sunrise on the midwinter solstice and consisted of four large concentric circles of postholes, which would have held extremely large standing timbers. A metalled avenue was also constructed on a slightly different alignment – towards the sunset on the summer solstice – that led to the River Avon. This feature is similar to the Stonehenge Avenue. A large timber post lay on this orientation, about as far away from the circle as the Heelstone is from Stonehenge.

At a similar time, but likely after the circle and avenue were constructed, a village began to develop around the site. Excavations have revealed seven Neolithic house floors on the eastern side of the bank. Some of these floors were located underneath the henge bank, suggesting that settlement came first. The density of some of the houses suggests that there are many more house floors under the field east of the henge, along the banks of the River Avon. One of the homes excavated showed evidence of a Cobb wall and its own ancillary building, and was remarkably similar in layout to a house at Skara Brae in Orkney. The other houses seem to have had simple wattle and daub walls. Evidence also suggests that the houses continued to the north of the site.

It is probable that the village surrounded a large, circular, open area that contained the Southern Circle and several smaller enclosures, including two houses set within timber palisades and ditched enclosures that appear to have been kept clean.

Sometime later, perhaps 200 years after the circle was first constructed, another two concentric rings were added, and the henge enclosure was constructed. A ditch some 5.5m deep was dug, and the earth used to create a large outer bank some 30m wide and presumably several metres high. Several features of the village, including houses and midden pits, were built over. The henge seems to have been built in one continuous operation, not in phases, as there is no evidence of soil or turf developing in the bank. The ditch also seems to have been dug in sections, perhaps by different groups of labourers. Estimates of the number of people required to create the henge vary from 4000 – 6000. At a similar time, another large timber circle and henge were created immediately south at Woodhenge.

It is unknown when the site fell out of use. It was re-occupied during the Iron Age, when a settlement and field system was established inside the henge. A large drainage ditch was also dug above the north eastern entrance, possibly to complement the field system.


Included in The Stonehenge Trail from Salisbury Included in The Stonehenge Trail from Southampton Included in The Stonehenge Trail from Salisbury Included in The Stonehenge Trail from Southampton

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