Avebury and surrounding ritual landscape

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  • Avebury and surrounding ritual landscape
    • Avebury
      • Henge monument of three stone circles
        • Largest stone circle in Europe
        • Sits on low chalk ridge
        • Outer circle
          • Thought originally to have had 98 Sarsen stones, some 40 tonnes+. Two large stones at southern entrance unusually smooth-most likely from axes being sharpened on them.
        • Inner circles
          • Two separate stone circles
            • Northern ring 98 metres in diameter.
              • Cove of three stones in middle-entrance facing northeast.
            • Celestial calculator?
              • Differing number of stones in circles
                • One represents lunar calendar and the other solar?
            • Acoustics-similar to Stonehenge?
              • Pollard, Gilling s and Watson proposed this based on experiments undertaken at Ring of Brodtgar.
            • Southern ring is 108m diameter.
              • Destroyed 18th century, remains under houses.
                • Single monolith stood in centre. 5.5m high.
        • Interesting in that whereas normally the Christian church put their churches in the middle of ancient archaeological monuments, here it is deliberately placed outside.
          • Scale meant they feared to put church inside henge?
            • Sense of power so strong?
        • Purpose?
          • Aubrey Burl-used for Neolithic rituals to appease elements of nature which threatened their existence. (Cold, disease etc)
          • Colin Richards- based on Orkney examples suggested represented centre of world.
          • Ancestor worship?
            • Taking bones from West Kennet?
          • Funeraryy role?
          • Part of ritual complex?
          • Multiple other theories given by druids etc
      • Some evidence of hunter gatherers before henge built
        • Flint tools dating 7000-4000BC found
      • Built in stages
        • Central cove-3000BC
          • Inner circle 2900BC.
            • 2600BC outer circle and henge
              • 2400BC-avenues
              • Ditch dug with antler picks and stone mauls
                • Tough job.90,000m3 weighing 165,000 tons excavated.
                  • Originally 12-15 metres wide, steep sides to 10m deep.
                    • Now 20-24 metres wide due to excavation by dynamite.
                    • Defensive? (Burl)
                  • Top of bank is irregular-product of different people working on segments or intentional?
        • Immense project
          • Shows agricultural life settled down
            • No longer hunter gatherers as had time to do projects like this
              • Slack season?
        • Stones added at same time as construction of Silbury hill, Stonehenge and Durrington walls
          • Religious revival? (Mike Parker Pearson)
      • Henge digging symbolic 'turning inside out'?
        • Creating area on boundary between worlds below and above? (Aaron Watson)
      • 1000m+ in diameter (henge)
        • Outer circle diameter 331.6m diameter.
          • Barber stone-so called as skeleton of barber surgeon from 14th century found under it when it was righted-dated by coins.
            • Stone might have fallen over by accident or pushed?
              • Some other stones toppled-pushed over by later religions (Christianity) who saw it as part of pagan religion.
          • Stones put into one of two categories.
            • Tall and thin
              • Linked to imagery of gender? Tall and thin=man as like erection. short and squat=woman as diamond shape represents hips.
                • Short and squat-diamond ish shape.
            • Short and squat-diamond ish shape.
      • Some human remains
        • Funerary purpose?
        • Some parallels to causeayed enclosures
      • Not defensive as ditch on on inside
        • Delimiting boundary though
    • Silbury hill
      • Artificial chalk mound-not far from Avebury.
        • Surrounding land very flat-dug out to make hill.
        • 40m high.
          • Tallest man-made mound in Europe.
          • Covers 5 acres.
            • Circular base-167m in diameter.
              • Smaller original mound was enlarged.
                • Indications that top wasn't always flat but rounded.
                • Gravel core with kerb of stakes and sarsen boulders evidence of first buildings.
                  • Then alternate layers of chalk and earth.
        • Constructed in stages from 2400-2300BC.
          • Great engineering feat-technical skill required.
            • Estimated at 18 million man hours to construct.
              • Begun in August-remains of winged ants found during live excavation on television.
                • Tunnels dug through hill-found nothing whatsoever. There is no one interred under the hill as perhaps might be expected.
                  • Left the hill very unstable.
        • 1723-Skeleton and bridle found
          • Unclear as to whether secondary burial though. (More likely as found when planting tree)
        • Antler fragment found by English heritage when conducting repairs.
          • C14 date- c.2490-2340BC.
          • Apart from this very little artifacts recovered. Site is almost clean
            • Therefore purpose?
              • Authority display by elite or priesthood? (John C. Barret.)
                • Visible from all around, including by several other monuments.
                • Elevated position?
              • Rituals and ceremonies performed at top?
                • No evidence though.
              • Process of building  it was actually the important part? (Jim Leary and David Field)
              • Inter related sightlines? there is a step several metres below summit, and lines up with hills on horizon when viewed from surrounding barrows and monuments. Leaves only top visible from hills in font. Cereal crops here could have covered Silbury hill from view? (Paul Deveraux)
              • Connecting point of ritual complex?
                • Visible from all around, including by several other monuments.
              • Folklore
                • Resting place of King Sil
                • Bag of soil ditched by devil whens stopped by priests of Avebury.
    • West Kennet long barrow (c3700-3200BC)
      • 15,700 man hours roughly to build
      • Mound stretches for over 100m
        • Actual chamber only stretches 10 m into mound.
        • Earth taken from trenches dug either side. Filled in now though with weathered mineral.
      • At least 46 burials-ranging from babies to elderly persons
        • Bones are disarticulated and arranged. Some sorting and in three of the chambers are located in darker corners
          • Many bones show signs of arthritis.
      • Passage moved to in front of 'forecourt'
      • Smaller stones appear to have been selected form 30 miles away.
        • Sarcen stones taken from nearby down.
          • Location would have made transportation of these difficult.
      • Originally open fronted and only in bronze age was barrier stone placed at entrance.
        • Originally open fronted and only in bronze age was barrier stone placed at entrance.
      • 85% of bones come from one generation in 3625BC, then there is nothing for 1200 years.
        • Therefore is it a family or clan site?
        • Bones later extracted and used in ceremonies at Avebury 1000+ years later-idea of ancestral powers?
          • Therefore is it a family or clan site?
          • Ancestor worship?
          • Specifically leg bones and skulls
        • Disarticulated
        • Important family?
          • Or go from here to West Kennet as bones interred here and  thought to have been used at Avebury later. Connection?
      • 5 separate chambers
        • One larger chamber at end
        • 4 smaller on sides of passage
      • Burial part of Avebury ritual complex/processional way/
    • West Kennet Avenue
      • Two parallel  lines of stones 25m wide. 2.5km long.
        • Runs between Sanctuary and Avebury.
          • Southeastern entrance of Avebury.
        • Around 100 pairs of standing stones
          • 2200Bc based on beaker burials found beneath some stones.
          • Again tall and thin stones and short, squat diamond shaped ones.
            • Male and female?
    • Sanctuary
      • 6 concentric rings of timbers 3000BC.
        • Support thatch roof?
          • High status dwelling serving Avebury?
            • indicates some type of occupation.
          • Mortuary house where corpses were kept before ritual at Avebury?
      • 162 post holes excavated.
        • Some double post holes.
          • Some postpipes remain.
      • Neolithic potter and animal bones found
        • indicates some type of occupation.
      • 2100BC-superseded by 2 stone circles (before hand had probably been 3 increasingly sized timber structures).
        • Stone circles stood within third timber structure? (Stuart Piggott)
        • Beaker evidence excavated (Cunningtons) from this period
          • Remains of adolescent interred in pot.
        • Marked out head of pagan serpent marked out by West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues?(William Stukeley)
      • Lies close to Ridgeway-ancient trackway
        • Also some Bronze age  barrows.
    • Beckhampton Avenue
      • Runs between Avebury and Longstones
        • Longstones are two standing stones in Beckhampton thought ot be the remains of a prehistoric 'cove' of standing stones.
          • Called Adam and Eve.
            • Eve thought to be part of avenue-only one left.
            • Adam is the larger, weighs 62 tons.
            • socket holes for other stones close to Adam.
              • Formed four sided cove-open on south eastern side towards South street barrow.
                • South Street barrow
                  • 130m SE of Longstones.
                    • Longstones are two standing stones in Beckhampton thought ot be the remains of a prehistoric 'cove' of standing stones.
                      • Called Adam and Eve.
                        • Eve thought to be part of avenue-only one left.
                        • Adam is the larger, weighs 62 tons.
                        • socket holes for other stones close to Adam.
                          • Formed four sided cove-open on south eastern side towards South street barrow.
                            • South Street barrow
                              • 130m SE of Longstones.
                                • Paul ashbee excavations found no remains.
                                  • Cenotaph?
                                    • Final location of ceremonial way/ritual complex of Avebury.
                    • Paul ashbee excavations found no remains.
                      • Cenotaph?
                        • Final location of ceremonial way/ritual complex of Avebury.
      • 120 excavated section indicates stones spaced at 15m intervals in a double row similar to West Kennet Avenue.
      • Led out from western entrance to Avebury,.
  • For more on barrows in general see barrows and cursus mind map.
  • So are they all interconnected?
    • Avenues carefully orchestrated pathway through landscape, thus influencing what people could see and go. Therefore this maximised connections between monuments and moving between them. (Aaron Watson)
    • Similar idea to Stonehenge perhaps?
      • Sancturay
        • Avebury via west Kennet Avenue.
          • Beckhampton avenue to Longstones
            • South Street  barrow
              • From here to West Kennet  for interring of remains?
            • Crosses Kennet river-liminal boundary.
            • From here to West Kennet  for interring of remains?
          • Or go from here to West Kennet as bones interred here and  thought to have been used at Avebury later. Connection?
    • Silbury hill connects all?
      • Viewable from monuments?
      • Centre of ritual complex?

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