Wiltshire is famous for its standing stone circles. Some are famous the world over like Stonehenge or Avebury for their mystery, or their eerie tranquility, even though they both have a main road pass nearby or right through them. Others are tucked away off the beaten track and are known to few. Compton Bassett doesn't have a stone circle of its own but Avebury is close by, Stonehenge is only a half an hour or so away and there are many ancient monuments and sites where evidence can be discovered of the lives of the people of Wiltshire many hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
We have tried to give a flavour of the history of our own village in other pages within the website, but the history of this area is so vast and so fascinating that we felt that we ought to widen the net a little and give the first time visitor to our village a flavour of the historical significance and wonderment of where we live.
Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology. The Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain built many settlements on the hills and downland that cover what is now known as Wiltshire.
Much archaeological investigation has been carried out since Victorian times in the area, indeed some of the more recent investigations have even been televised and the geographical and spiritual significance of the area is still only just being understood. It may be that in future times further investigation may uncover some small piece of evidence which changes what is currently understood, but for now the experts think they are getting the hang of what was going on here. For the last hundred years or so, both Stonehenge and Avebury have been the sites of big ceremonies and celebrations at both the solstices and equinoxes by both neo-druids and pagans from far and wide.
Stonehenge originally comprised a circular bank and ditch, c. 3100 BC, followed about a hundred years later by a timber structure. The timber posts were abandoned in favour of a standing stones and the settings were altered and refined between 2600 BC to 2400 BC. Further rearrangements were carried out until 1600 BC when the site was largely abandoned until druids adopted it for worship in the late Iron Age before being repressed and eradicated by the Romans.
The magnificent setting of large standing stones is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze age monuments in England including several hundred burial mounds.
Avebury is a late Neolithic henge, the largest and finest in Britain, and was constructed around 2600 BC. The massive circular bank and its internal ditch surrounds and outer ring of immense sarsen stones; the remains of another two smaller circles stand within the outer circle. Two stone lined avenues lead off west and south east. Very little remains of the west Beckhampton Avenue but the West Kennet avenue has been partly restored along its path to the Sanctuary on Overton Hill.
The original purpose of Avebury is not fully understood, although archaeologists believe that it was for ritual or ceremonial use and is part of a much larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.
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