Avebury Buried Megaliths

The Resistivity Survey area placed on a map of the henge

The Resistivity Survey area placed on a map of the henge

Cover map

avebury geophysical survey

I always thought that somewhere as famous as the great henge and stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire would have been thoroughly studied over the years. It is the great thing about archaeology that there is so much potential for discovery and it is open to anyone to study the landscape, look at the records and find something new about things that are old and forgotten.

Avebury dates from about 2600-1800 BC and like a great cathedral has developed over time. It has a great earthen bank that surrounds a deep wide ditch and on the inner edge of the ditch were once over 100 massive stones, each about 10m from the next, many standing over 3m high. Most of these stones have gone now. Some were broken up for building stone 250-300 years ago but others were buried, mainly in the medieval period. Nobody really knows why.

The question was .. How many are left in their original positions? How many have been excavated? How many have been broken up? How many have been buried? The answer was….we don’t know because although the west side was excavated in the 1930s and the middle sections have been surveyed, the east part never has.

Our old resistivity meter in the foreground and using the magnetometer in the background.

Our old resistivity meter in the foreground and using the magnetometer in the background.

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Each of the black marks along the curving right edge is a megalith. Each up to 4m long and 2m wide

Each of the black marks along the curving right edge is a megalith. Each up to 4m long and 2m wide

Avebury SE Quadrant

So we took our old battered resistivity meter one dry autumn and stuck the probes in the ground. At first the readings were boring 50; 52; 50; 49 ..and then ..as we got to the ditch edge 50;100; 250; 600; 600; 280; 100; 50. We had found a buried stone. In fact a vast arc of them survived beneath the grass. How exciting! We also found the stone footings of buildings, part of the medieval village which still occupies part of the henge.

Our survey plot of the megaliths and remains of pre-18th century buildings at the top beside Green Street.

Our survey plot of the megaliths and remains of pre-18th century buildings at the top beside Green Street.

SE resistivity

When you visit, go on an autumn evening, when the ancient church bell tolls and the mist rises from the henge ditch, like an overflowing boiling cauldron, seeping and drifting between the megaliths.

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