Stonehenge and Avebury
Stonehenge has always been on my bucket list. The afternoon we visited was a perfect time for photos. We visited the visitors center before boarding the bus to the site. Construction of the prehistoric ring of standing stones occurred between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Each stone is approximately 13 ft. high, 7 ft. wide and weighs around 25 tons. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is owned by the Crown and managed by the National Trust.
Stonehenge was a burial site and in 2013 a team of archaeologists excavated more than 50,000 cremated bones of 63 individuals buried at the site. The bluestones were transported by the builders from over 150 miles away in the hills of modern-day Pembrokeshire in Wales. A decapitated 7th Century Saxon man was excavated from the site in 1923. Progress in research and technology continues and studies of the area reveal new information constantly.
Hundreds visit the site during the solstice and conduct rituals and ceremonies. Access to the site is restricted to prevent damage to the stones, so visitors cannot touch the stones. Despite the presence of so many visitors, there is an aura of quiet reverence about the site.
We left Stonehenge and drove a short 30 minutes to the site of Avebury, which couldn’t have been more different. Older than Stonehenge, the site began evolving around the 4th millenium BCE. By the Iron Age, the site had been abandoned and during the Early Middle Ages, a village was built around the monument, eventually extending into it. It was strange to literally drive thru the circle of stones, which wasn’t protected like Stonehenge, even though both were UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world and is both a tourist attraction and a place of religious importance to contemporary pagans. We were able to walk among the stones accompanied by a small herd of sheep. We took several photos since the light was beginning to fade and headed back to Cheltenham.