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date: 31 July 2021

Avebury, Wiltshire, England

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology

Timothy Darvill

Avebury, Wiltshire, England 


The largest and finest henge monument in Britain, set on the rolling chalk downlands of southern England near the headwaters of the River Kennet. The great ditch encloses an area of 11.5 ha and has a diameter of 350 m. On the inner edge of the ditch stood a ring of 98 stones. Near the centre of the henge were two smaller stone circles with internal settings. Limited excavation within the interior of the site revealed very little, as is the case at most henge monuments. It is, however, known that prior to its construction in about 2100 bc some or all of the area was under cultivation.

Two avenues of upright stones led away from Avebury, connecting it to the wider landscape. The Beckhampton Avenue to the southwest has largely disappeared, but the West Kennet Avenue to the southeast remains, in part reconstructed.

At the southeastern end of the West Kennet Avenue is the Sanctuary, a complicated and long‐lived monument that started its life as a series of timber circles. Two rings of stone slabs were later added and it is the outer of these that connects to the Avenue and thence to Avebury.


M. Gillings and J. Pollard, Avebury. London: DuckworthFind this resource: