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The Avebury Complex
The stone circle and henge that surrounds the village of Avebury, is only one in a series of monuments concentrated in this small area. The site is a remnant of a ritual Neolithic landscape, which still survives although degraded with time and the actions of over zealous groups in past centuries. What remains of the circle now is only a small proportion of what must have been an awe-inspiring place when it was in use over 4000 years ago.
The stone circle is thought to date from around 2600BC, although the proper chronology of the site is not completely understood by archaeologists. The earliest focus of ritual activity in the area was at nearby Windmill Hill around 3700BC, at this time the first stages of West Kennet Long Barrow were also begun.
It is thought that the two inner circles at Avebury were completed first, around 2600BC. The outer ring and henge (The ditch of which was originally 10 metres deep) was started around 2500BC, completed entirely with antler picks and stone tools. The actual stones where quarried from the Marlborough Downs and transported overland, probably on wooden rollers. This must have been a monumental task as some of the stones within the circle are over 40 tonnes, almost twice as heavy as those at nearby Stonehenge, although not as well finished and shaped. There were originally around 100 of these stones although only 27 remain, the missing stones marked by concrete posts.
There was a phase of destruction at the site in the 14th century, when many of the stones were buried, and again in the 17th and 18th century, when the stones where broken up with fire and hammers. This was mainly in response to puritanical thought and for private ventures.
Folklore and Legends
There seems to be little folklore associated with the stone circle itself, that being reserved for single stones and other features in the landscape.
The Devil's Chair is one of the most massive stones within the structure, it sits where the West Kennet avenue joins the circle. So named because of the natural seat formation in the stone, young women used to sit here on May Day Eve (Beltane) and make a wish.
A large stone known as the Diamond Stone, situated near the Northwest entrance, is said to cross over to the other side of the road when the clock strikes midnight. An amazing feat as the stone weighs around forty tonnes.
There have been some strange sightings in the locality of the stones. Small figures have been seen moving within the stones in the moonlight, and a woman called Edith Olivier heard music and saw lights amongst the stones whilst driving through the village at night. She took the lights to be those of a fair.
As far as I know there has been no real attempt to measure any alignments within the stone circle itself, and it may now be impossible because so many stones are missing and in different positions after re-erection. Paul Devereux believes that the whole Avebury area and the structures within it are orientated in special relationship to Silbury Hill. More can be gleaned from his books listed in the bibliography section.