Avebury Henge

 

If you have been following this web site for a while, you know that we visit a lot of churches in our travels.  No surprise there. And the older, the better. When we find Romanesque arches in a cathedral, we are happy. But our trip to Avebury on a recent Friday has to take the prize as the oldest worship site that either of us has ever visited----no exceptions. The Avebury Henge is the oldest stone circle in England, and anywhere else, possibly. It dates to the Neolithic period and is older than Stonehenge by at least 1000 years---parts of it, anyway. Close by the town of Avebury and the stone circle (which encloses parts of the town) lie worship sites even more amazing and ancient than the stone circle. We've seen Stonehenge, and even gotten to hug the standing stones and were impressed by their height and the capstones. But in sheer size (area), abundance, and accessibility, Avebury is has much to offer---and a terrific vegetarian restaurant on the site. If you're into stone circles and prehistoric things, follow the link above. There is an abundance of web sites about Avebury and other stone circles. We hope to visit more of these in the future.

The Sanctuary is the oldest worship site in the area. None of the original stones are there, so what you see is re-creation of the sites of the wooden poles and surrounding stones that were there.

The low squared stones mark the outer ring.

These two rows of stones mark the beginning of the Kennet Path, a prehistoric path that leads from the Sanctuary site to the Avebury stone circle. See below for the other end of the path.

Next stop was the Long Barrow, an ancient burial site, containing several burial chambers.

The entrance to the Long Barrow-individual chambers to the right and left as you enter. There are at least 5 chambers. Bones were removed during digs dating from the18th century.

One of the burial chambers.

The chamber at the end of the barrow. It appeared larger, perhaps for cerimonial purposes. Modern day worshipers had left candles and flowers in here.

We're looking from the end chamber towards the entrance.

These standing stones were erected when prehistoric persons closed off the entrance to the barrow.

Walking from the Long Barrow to the road you get a good view of Silbury Hill, a neolithic creation that rivals the pyrimids of Egypt.

Entirely man made, this hill evolved over 200 years or so. It's purpose is a mystery---it is not a burial site. Tunnels have been dug, but they did not offer clues to the purpose of the hill.

If you click on this picture, you can read the interpretive plaque at the site. Further investigation has revealed that there might have been a spiral path circling upward and that the hill possibly had cerimonial uses..

Again, if you click and enlarge this picture, you will be able to view a map of the Avebury area. It might help you understand the remainder of these pictures.

As you emerge from the parking lot path, you suddenly are in the midst of the ancient and majestic stones which form a huge circle.

Some of the stones are quite large, with one corner in the earth.

Some with with edges embedded. Most of the stones were re-erected in the 30's by an archeologist who found them buried flat beneath the surface.

These stones are near the center of the circle. Some conjecture that the shapes represent masculine and feminine forms.

The entire stone circle is surrounded by a deep ditch, the purpose of which is unclear. But consider the labor it took to dig this with only bone tools and leather buckets.

Modern roads enter the site, since much of the town is inside the stone circle.

This is the other end of the Kennet Path, with some of the original stones put in place to mark its route.

The oldes part of St. James Parrish Church is Anglo Saxon, from about 1000 A.D. The tower dates from the 15th century.

The church's 12th century baptismal font. Enlarge the picture to look at the ornate stone carving on the sides. They depict a bishop trampling a dragon, although you probably can't get that out of this picture. Popular middle-ages' pictures showed Christtrampling on the dragons of evil and sin.

An old chest in the north aisle. Again, by enlarging this picture you can read the date on the center left of the chest.

Hanging in the old (unused) narthex is the coat of arms for George III. You remember him---1776 and all.

This stone coffin is from the 13th or 14th centuryandmostlikely was for a prior of the Benedictine Priory which was next to the church.

On the west wall of the north aisle is this 13th century lancet window.

This wall is part of the original Saxon stonework. If you look closely you will see some stone carving in one of the blocks.

 

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