|11 September 1999
Exciting new discoveries at Avebury
The discovery of a lost "avenue" of slabs at the Avebury stone circle may rewrite the history of the prominent prehistoric site, archeologists said. The large gray stones were discovered under a farmer's field near the site in southern England.
Experts believe the stones form a causeway linking the famous stone circle to the Beckhampton burial site, about a mile to the southwest. The discovery supports theories that the Avebury stones did not stand alone, but were connected to other ceremonial sites. The existence of the causeway linking the stone circle with the burial site has been debated since the 1720s, when antiquarian William Stukeley wrote of the existence of the "Beckhampton Avenue." Stukeley's theory was dismissed by many as guesswork.
Archeologists discovered a first avenue leading to nearby West Kennet from Avebury many years ago. But archaeologists were excited about the new causeway, discovered by a 15-person team from universities at Southampton and Leicester in England, and at Newport in Wales. This clearly shows that the whole complex was built in stages, said David Wheatley, a director of the dig. We will have to redraw the map of the complex and re-evaluate the development of the area, which clearly grew over a long period of time.
British archaeologists have also made another discovery at the very same site. They uncovered evidence of deep holes thought to have supported large oak poles near the stone circle. The team uncovered the foundations of the timber structure at Avebury's Sanctuary. There were two concentric stone circles here which were destroyed in the 18th Century.
In the centre of where these would have been, giant post holes have been found. They are up to six feet deep and could have supported wooden pillars up to 17ft high. Six to eight rings appear to have existed.
One theory is that they were supports for a ritual building but they are much thicker and closer together than would have been needed to hold up a roof. The archaeologists believe they are more likely to have formed a free-standing "woodhenge". They think there may have been nearly 40 similar wooden structures in the ancient kingdom of Wessex, some of them much bigger.
Sources: Associated Press (1 September 99), BBC News (31 August 99)
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