Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle information

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With a diameter of about 348m, Avebury is the largest stone circle in the world. It's also one of the oldest, dating from around 2500 to 2200 BC, between the first and second phase of construction at Stonehenge. The site originally consisted of an outer circle of 98 standing stones of up to 6m in length, many weighing 20 tons, which had been carefully selected for their shape and size. The stones were surrounded by another circle delineated by a 5m-high earth bank and ditch up to 9m deep. Inside were smaller stone circles to the north (27 stones) and south (29 stones).

In the Middle Ages, when Britain's pagan past was an embarrassment to the church, many of the stones were buried, removed or broken up. In 1934, wealthy businessman and archaeologist Alexander Keiller supervised the re-erection of the stones, and planted markers to indicate those that had disappeared; he later bought the site for posterity using funds from his family's marmalade fortune.

Self-Guided Tour

Modern roads into Avebury neatly dissect the circle into four sectors. Starting at High St, near the Henge Shop, and walking round the circle in an anticlockwise direction, you'll encounter 11 standing stones in the southwest sector. They include the Barber Surgeon Stone , named after the skeleton of a man found under it – the equipment buried with him suggests he was a barber-cum-surgeon.

The southeast sector starts with the huge portal stones marking the entry to the circle from the West Kennet Avenue. The southern inner circle stood in this sector and within this ring was the obelisk and a group of stones known as the Z Feature . Just outside this smaller circle, only the base of the Ring Stone remains.

In the northern inner circle in the northeast sector, three sarsens remain of what would have been a rectangular cove . The northwest sector has the most complete collection of standing stones, including the massive 65-ton Swindon Stone , one of the few never to have been toppled.