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Stonehenge and Nearby Prehistoric Sites

Updated on October 11, 2014
A close up view of some of the largest stones in Stonehenge
A close up view of some of the largest stones in Stonehenge | Source

Stonehenge and Associated Sites - A World Heritage Area

The county of Wiltshire, in the south-west of England, is most famous for Stonehenge, the stone circle where Druids still celebrate the summer solstice.

Then there are the huge Avebury stone circles, among which a village has been built. Other associated sites include barrows (ancient burial mounds), Silbury Hill and other smaller and lesser known remnants of prehistoric religion.

I live near these monuments and see them often. The one I like best of all is Avebury because you can walk among the stones. The more famous Stonehenge is impressive but I find it more impersonal.

These ancient sites are so important that they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Picture: Stonehenge - Close-up of Stones - In the Public Domain

Wiltshire Marked on a Map of England & Wales

The county of Wiltshire shown in red on this map of England and Wales
The county of Wiltshire shown in red on this map of England and Wales | Source
A dramatic picture of Stonehenge with storm clouds overhead
A dramatic picture of Stonehenge with storm clouds overhead | Source

Stonehenge - The Most Famous Stone Circle in the World?

Stonehenge is probably the most famous prehistoric site in Europe located 8 miles north of the city of Salisbury. Considered to be some 5000 years old, the exact purpose of this incredible monument is unclear.

Its construction points to a considerable effort and it is the only stone circle in the world with horizontal stones across the vertical ones. Some of the stones weigh up to 50 tons each and 80 stones were brought from the Preseli Mountains in South Wales, well over 200 miles away. Imagine the problems involved in such a journey.

Stonehenge illustrates the sophistication of the culture in those distant times. Not only was there the organisation, and also the resources to manage a scheme of this scale, but those prehistoric builders aligned the stone avenue with sunrise on Midsummer's Day.

The whole area, covering 2600 hectares and containing about 3000 prehistoric burial sites as well as the famous stone circle, is now a World Heritage Site.

Nova: Secrets of Stonehenge
Nova: Secrets of Stonehenge

This DVD shows some discoveries being made at Stonehenge and explores some of the theories about this world famous stone circle.

 

Stonehenge on DVD - See the ancient monument in detail

Reading about Stonehenge is interesting but actually seeing it makes the scale of the monument more believeable.

The theories of experts are also much easier to understand as you watch the movie.

Map Showing Location of Stonehenge

A markerStonehenge, Wiltshire, UK -
Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE, UK
get directions

Avebury Stone Circles

Stones in Avebury Stone Circle in a field where sheep graze
Stones in Avebury Stone Circle in a field where sheep graze | Source

Thought to be older than Stonehenge although still dating back some 5000 years, Avebury Stone Circles form one of the largest and oldest Neolithic standing stone monuments in Europe.

What I find so impressive and surprising about Avebury is that, over the centuries, the village has grown up among the stones. Here at Avebury you don't see the carefully cut stones used at Stonehenge. Instead these seem to keep their original quarried uneven shapes. Experts on Avebury point out that there are two types of stone. One is tall and thin, the other short and wide. One theory is that the different shapes represent men and women.

It has a huge bank (henge) and dyke structure, about 421 metres (1,381 ft) in diameter and 1.35 kilometres (0.84 mi) in circumference. Within these earthworks there is a large outer circle of stones. Inside this circle, there were two more smaller ones: the Northern Inner Circle and the Southern Inner Circle. Unfortunately these two have lost stones, and part of the Southern one has been lost under village buildings and other stones have been lost too so now only one remains.

As well as the circles, there were also two avenues of stones standing in pairs. One leads from the south-east side of the outer henge and can still be seen. The other, on the western side, has largely disappeared.

Over the centuries, stones have been lost. Some have been taken for building while others were removed because they were in the way. Superstition and fear also contributed to their destruction. In the 1930s archaeologist, Alexander Keiller, erected fallen stones he found in position in the outer circle. Throughout the monument, missing stones have been replaced by concrete markers so visitors can get an idea of the original appearance.

In spite of much speculation and work by archaeologists, there are no firm conclusions on the purpose of Avebury's circles. Human bones have been found so could it have been an elaborate grave or cemetery? Another credible theory is that it's a site for religious ritual particularly with the avenues connecting to other monuments in the area, including West Kennet Long Barrow.

Part of Avebury's the Inner South Circle

Source
Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Bernard Cornwell, best selling novelist, writes about three brothers and their ambition to build a temple for their god. Discord and murder ensues.

 

A Novel about Stonehenge - Some Fictional Explanations of the Ancient Monument

We don't know exactly who built Stonehenge or why.

Was it an astronomical instrument or a religious site? Was human sacrifice practised there? We don't know the answers although some experts have opinions.

Unhampered by academia, fiction writers can offer stories about the building and uses of Stonehenge and, who knows, maybe their ideas might contain some truth.

Other Prehistoric Sites in Wiltshire

The Sanctuary is found on Overton Hill and archaeologists have found timber post holes on the sites in six concentric circles leading them to conclude that this was the timber version of Stonehenge. They have dated the timber postholes to about 3000 BC. Two stone circles were erected there about 800 years later but, unfortunately, these were largely destroyed in the early 18th century. Now both timber post and stone holes are marked with concrete slabs.

Windmill Hill

Standing just a mile north west of Avebury, Windmill Hill is the largest neolithic causewayed enclosure in Britain. Pottery dating back to 3800 BC has been found on the hill but it is thought it was 500 years later that three concentric ditches were dug in segments around the hilltop. The causeway interrupts the circles.

Silbury Hill

This extraordinary conical hill is a man-made structure built mostly from chalk. The base is 550ft in diameter, Silbury Hill is 130ft high and it's thought it was built around 4700 BC. This is another of Wiltshire's mysterious sites where its purpose is not known although it seems to be connected with the other sites nearby.

Silbury Hill

Source
Source

West Kennet Long Barrow

Located near Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow is one of the longest of its kind in Britain.

Thought to have been built around 3600 BC and to have been used for about 1000 years, archaeologists have identified around 46 individuals interred here ranging from babies to the elderly.

© 2009 Carol Fisher

Have you seen any of these ancient monuments or others elsewhere?

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    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 2 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I just saw "Tess" with its closing scene at Stonehenge. I am waiting for a make of "Jude the Obscure". I love the novels that showcase English landscape.

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 4 years ago

      Someday I will see them! :) Blessed!

    • profile image

      crstnblue 4 years ago

      Very nice and informative lens. Thanks for sharing!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Fascinating. I have seen the The Callanish Stones but never seen Stonehenge.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      I've always been fascinated by Stonehenge, and really hope to visit there some day. It's an amazing feat for the ancients to have built such a large and enduring monument with just simple tools.

    • profile image

      celestialelff 6 years ago

      Great Lens :D

      Thought you might like my King Arthur's Summer Solstice at Stonehenge machinima film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wuNE5M01ME Bright Blessings, elf ~

    • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

      BrickHouseFabrics 6 years ago

      A wonderful place to visit!

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      I have always wanted to go here. Maybe one day.

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 6 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      A very informative guide- thank you. I've featured this on my new Castlerigg Stone Circle lens.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      One other thing, if you'd like this lens or any of your other travel lenses to be featured on the ExSquidition Travel Journal, feel free to write up a blog post linking to it (use the contact button to email). I just ask that it's 200 words at least per link out. Thanks!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I haven't seen any of the these monuments, but I've always wanted to. Stonehenge is high on the list of places to see once I get to England. Excellent job!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've only seen pictures of these ancient monuments, but Stonehenge and the Avebury stone circles have always fascinated me. I'd love to see them in person. How lucky you are to live close enough to do so. Wonderful pictures in this story.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 7 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens about Stonehenge and other sites. The video showing how Stonehenge may have been constructed is amazing. Blessed by an angel.

    • Kate Phizackerl1 profile image

      Kate Phizackerl1 7 years ago

      Outstanding lens of a very special place, Blessed.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Wonderful lens! featuring it on my Travel Bucket List lens.

    • justforhealth profile image

      justforhealth 7 years ago

      I was in London recently for studies and visited Stonehenge to solve the mystery. Bu I guess one day was little short to do that :). Thanks for sharing .. great lens once again !!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Wow! It's almost as good as being there! Thanks!

    • profile image

      qlcoach 8 years ago

      Your lens is wonderful. Very well craftetd and organized. You deserve way more than 5 stars. I found your lens on Squidom. Hope you will visit my new lens about emotional healing. Gary Eby, author and therapist.

    • profile image

      slotowngal 8 years ago

      Very nice lens! I visited Stonehenge in the 1970s and would love to make another trip to your beautiful country one day. Thank you for an enjoyable read.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 8 years ago from Michigan

      An extremely interesting subject. Thank you for putting this lens together.

    • buteoflyer2 profile image

      Kathie Miller 8 years ago from Southern California

      A very nice lens on Stonehenge. I'll lensroll this one. Thanks

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Thank you for adding your lens to the All Things Travel group on Squidoo, which already has over 1,100 lenses registered.

      I don't know if you have realized yet, but All Things Travel is more than your average group. As well as providing the automatic link back to your lens, All Things Travel is actively promoted on other sites, plus all lenses in the group are featured under the lensmaster to provide more exposure and more backlinks.

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      By helping each other, this will become one of the top groups on Squidoo, and it's popularity will greatly help your lens.

      Wishing your newly registered lens oodles of success.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love this! You always create beautiful lenses and all of such excellent quality that it's hard to say which one is the best - but this is my favourite

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I am so intrigued by Stonehenge, there are so many questions about this that and the other, it is truly and enigma.

      Thanks for the lens.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I'd certainly heard of Stonehenge but not the others. I really, really want to visit England and see as much of the country as I can, rather than just the brief ride through London and a piece of the countryside I experienced years ago, when my parents took me on a cruise that left from England. We had all of three hours between the time the plane landed and the boat sailed. My husband and I are definitely planning to hike the Pennine Way and Coast To Coast trails. I wonder if any of these sites are near?

    • Christene-S profile image

      Christene-S 8 years ago

      I've been to Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circles :)

      I loved visiting England and hope to get back there again...next time it will be with my daughter.

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