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  • The Avebury World Heritage Site is a unique complex of prehistoric monuments. Today we're going to be visiting some of the lesser-known prehistoric monuments in the Avebury landscape.

  • Most of these monuments are accessible and you can walk between them, and that gives you a really good sense of the whole landscape and how these monuments are connected together and the different fascinating stories that each monument has to tell.

  • Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric monument in the whole of Europe, and it's a pretty dominant place here in the Avebury landscape. You can't really miss it when you drive past on the A4.

  • Many people have thought, what on Earth is inside this enormous mound? Is it a burial mound? Is there somebody rich inside buried with grave goods? And in the past, people have been tunnelling into the mound to find out what was inside.

  • And Although they found out a lot about the different phases of the mound and how it had been constructed, there is no central burial: it's not a burial mound; it's a mound built for other purposes.

  • Silbury Hill is one of the final monuments to be built in this landscape in the Neolithic period, and it's built in this cluster of already existing monuments, but it's located in a really interesting place:

  • It's located just at the point just where the River Kennet springs out, and we think that the mound was built at the head of the river because this was a really important and perhaps sacred place.

  • We've just walked up to West Kennet Long Barrow which is one of the earliest monuments in the Avebury landscape.

  • It's a long barrow which is a funerary monument, it's where people buried their dead and it's been fully excavated which means that it's fully restored and you can go inside it and see the chambers today.

  • When archaeologists excavated the Long Barrow, they found the remains of about 36 individuals in here, a whole community of people, but they seem to have been brought into the space and then moved around.

  • Sometimes some of the skulls had been moved over to one side of the chamber or the long bones all put together

  • And there seem to have been different people placed in the different chambers. Some of them seem to have been specially for older people, some of them specially for children so there's some sort of division based on age and gender inside the space.

  • The long barrow that we see today has this really impressive stone facade at the front, but it's actually slightly misleading.

  • The largest stones that stand in the middle of that facade are blocking stones, so these were added to the monument right at the end of its use when the chambers had been filled up, around about 1000 years after it was first constructed.

  • This big windswept grassy hill is called Windmill Hill, and it might not look very much today but it's actually the site of one of the oldest monuments and most important monuments in the Avebury landscape. It's the site of what we call a causewayed enclosure.

  • There are three circuits of ditches creating a special space, and we think these monuments were places where people gathered together in large numbers.

  • At this time, people were probably quite dispersed in the landscape and they may have come here to exchange goods, to find marriage partners, to exchange cattle, perhaps to conduct rituals and ceremonies including some funerary rituals.

  • So it's a really important site for us understanding early Neolithic life and for also understanding how archaeological ideas have changed over the 20th century.

  • To fully understand the monument, so it's a good idea to go and visit the Alexander Keiller Museum in the middle of Avebury where they have quite a lot of the finds from this site on display including the Windmill Hill pottery.

  • We're standing at the Sanctuary which is a really lovely little monument but not many people know about.

  • Originally, the Sanctuary would have been two stone circles, one set within the other, and then around them and inside them were standing timber posts.

  • We don't know exactly what those posts would have looked like because of course they've rotted away, but we think they would have been standing quite tall and possibly with a linteled linked top, horizontal timbers linking the circular settings of posts.

  • After the site was excavated in 1930 they marked out the post holes and the stone holes with these concrete blocks. The red ones show timber posts and the blue rectangular ones show where stones once stood.

  • And in the middle of the monument is quite a complicated layout but it almost looks like there are four avenues of posts basically directed on the cardinal directions.

  • So they're almost spaces that people were coming into and processing into the centre of the monument and it would have been quite a special inner sanctuary from the wider landscape.

  • We think that The Sanctuary was built at around the same time as Avebury henge and stone circles, and it's actually linked to that monument by an avenue.

  • The avenue is made up of two parallel rows of stones, which lead off down into the valley behind me, and skirt around Waden Hil and approach the henge, about a mile and a half away.

  • So we think this monument was part of the ceremonial complex of Avebury, and people might have processed up and down the avenue to reach it.

  • All of the sites we've explored today are free and publicly accessible, so it's worth spending a bit of time and coming out and exploring some of the lesser known prehistoric monuments in the Avebury World Heritage site.

The Avebury World Heritage Site is a unique complex of prehistoric monuments. Today we're going to be visiting some of the lesser-known prehistoric monuments in the Avebury landscape.

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