The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

The Sanctuary

Timber Circle


Aubrey in the 17th century, and Stukeley in the 18th both described the Kennett Avenue as leading from Avebury to Kennet, and then ascending Overton Hill where it ended in two concentric rings of standing stones. Stukeley, with a nice turn of phrase records the destruction of these rings in the winter of 1724 "in order to clear the ground for ploughing and so gain a little dirty profit".He also said that "[The country people] call it the Sanctuary."

With the site's destruction its location was lost until Maud Cunnington managed to locate it from Stukeley's descriptions. Her excavations found the many holes in which the two circles of stone had stood were found, but also and totally unexpectedly, six concentric circles of holes which had held timbers. The book below claims that one of the deeper postholes contained a piece of lava rock from Niedermendig in the Rhine district, which was often used for 'mealing stones' - it was certainly later imported by the romans for millstones. Whether this still holds or whether the find has been reinterpreted I don't know.

Gleaned from Mrs M E Cunnington's 1933 'Introduction to the archaeology of Wiltshire'.

Aubrey Burl (in 'Prehistoric Avebury') states that the Sanctuary was used at least at some point as a mortuary house, where the bodies of particular elite persons were stored until their bones were clean and ready for interring elsewhere.
He also discusses the controversy about whether the sanctuary was roofed or not at any time - whether it was a building or just an arrangement of posts. Certain shells were found in the excavations which belonged to snail species found in marshy areas, perhaps lending weight to the theory that the structure was thatched with reeds at some point.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th September 2003ce
Edited 16th December 2004ce

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