Home News Famous Avebury stone circle was once an ancient square, archaeologists find

Famous Avebury stone circle was once an ancient square, archaeologists find


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have discovered a “striking and apparently unique” square monument within the famous stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire. The site consists of three stone circles which includes the largest stone circle in Europe, which is 1,0000 feet wide and believed to have once consisted of 100 stones.

A research team led by the University of Leicester and University of Southampton have now uncovered fascinating information about the Neolithic monument, which could mean the stones were not arranged as a circle, but as a square. The archaeological survey at Avebury suggests the square measured around 100 feet across, and is thought to have been erected around the remains of a Neolithic house.

The discovery inside the South Circle could mean it would be one of the first prehistoric “stone square” ever discovered in Europe.Using electrical currents and ground-penetrating radars to detect underground features, they were able to map a series of buried stones and also the position of others that were thought to be destroyed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dr Mark Gillings, from the University of Leicester, said: “Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. “We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries.He adds that the discoveries mean it has the potential to be one of the earliest structures on the site.

The Wiltshire World Heritage Site was originally excavated by Alexander Keiller in 1939 but whose work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. His excavation uncovered the existence of an angular setting of small standing stones close to one huge upright one, which since the 18th century has been known as “the obelisk”.Keiller wrongly thought this to be a medieval cart shed, but archaeologists now believe the square may have commemorated the location of an early Neolithic house, which could have been used as the centre of the southern circle.

Researchers believe the house could have been an “ancestral house of the first people who lived in Avebury” Dr Joshua Pollard, from the University of Southampton, said the survey had shown the line of stones Keiller identified was one side of a square enclosing the obelisk.”Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this kind are highly unusual,” he said.

Dr Nick Snashall, an archaeologist with the National Trust, which looks after Avebury, said the discovery, 80 years in the making, had been worth waiting for. “The completion of the work first started by Keiller in the 1930s has revealed an entirely new type of monument at the heart of the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, using techniques he never dreamt of.”And goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions.”The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.