Seventeen miles north of Stonehenge is the charming village of Avebury, itself the site of an ancient stone circle that may rival its more famous neighbor in terms of interest.
Imagine this. You and your friends are given shovels and asked to dig a henge (large circular bank with an internal ditch) that is nearly four football fields wide and ten football fields long. After finishing that bracing task, your hearty crew is given axes (for cutting trees into roller shapes) and asked to roll 98 stones–some weighing up to 40 tons in weight—and set them into extra holes that you dug in your spare time. A 40-ton stone is about the weight of 20 cars.
Did people 6,000 year ago not have enough to keep them occupied? Couldn’t they have invented cricket earlier? Why would they undertake such a massive construction project? Clearly this was not a leisure sport. Of the many theories, the most serious one suggests these people used the site to practice rituals observing alignments of the stars, moon, and sun. Another interesting suggestion is that the stone circle might have been viewed as an axis mundi—a marker indicating the center of the world.
So feel good that instead of using a spade and axe, you can pay the National Trust a modest admission fee that helps protect these stones from souvenir hunters. Allow yourself to wander among the stones and feel awed by what the ancients were able to do.
And before you leave, have a nice pub lunch at the Red Lion and treat yourself to a saunter of the side streets to see their lovely gardens. Perhaps you can watch a cricket match at the local pitch as well.
Next Time: The Destruction of Great Country Houses
Aerial View–Google/Open Source
Individual Views–Nancy C. Parrish