Avebury world heritage site

Mark Gillings (University of Leicester), Joshua Pollard (University of Bristol), Rick Peterson and David Wheatley (University of Southampton)

The Landscape of the Megaliths : excavation and fieldwork on the Avebury monuments, 1997-2003

The Longstones Project was a joint-universities programme of excavation and survey designed to develop a fuller understanding of the context and dynamics of monument construction in the later Neolithic (3rd millennium BC) of the Avebury region, Wiltshire. Several elements of this internationally important prehistoric monument complex were investigated: an early-mid 3rd millennium BC enclosure at Beckhampton; the recently re-discovered Beckhampton Avenue and Longstones Cove; a section of the West Kennet Avenue; the Falkner’s stone circle; and the Cove within Avebury’s Northern Inner Circle. The project also reviewed the environmental sequence of the Upper Kennet Valley from the earliest Holocene to the late Bronze Age.

The second strand of the research investigated the later, post-prehistoric, lives of Avebury’s megalithic monuments. Evidence was discovered for later prehistoric and Roman activity focussed on the Longstones Cove together with rich evidence of medieval and early post-medieval responses to the prehistoric megalithic settings. Several toppled and deliberately buried megaliths were discovered on the line of the Beckhampton Avenue, and one of early 20thcentury date on the West Kennet Avenue. Later 17th- and early 18th-century stone destruction pits, including one of very elaborate form, were encountered on the Beckhampton Avenue, at the Longstones Cove and the Falkner’s Circle. Similar burial and burning features had been reported from earlier excavations at Avebury and the archives from these excavations were re-analysed. It is suggested that, rather being viewed as acts of destruction, stone breaking should be understood as an important post-medieval craft tradition in its own right.


Gillings, M., R. Peterson and J. Pollard 2004. The destruction of the Avebury monuments. In R. Cleal & J. Pollard (eds), Monuments and material culture: essays on the Neolithic and Bronze Age for Isobel Smith, 139-63. East Knoyle: Hobnob Press.

Gillings, M., Pollard, J., Wheatley, D. and Peterson, R. In press. The Longstones Project: excavations in the Avebury Landscape 1998-2003. Oxford: Oxbow.

Peterson, R. 2003a. William Stukeley: an eighteenth-century phenomenologist? Antiquity 77/296, 394-400.

Peterson, R. 2003b Thomas Twining’s Roman Avebury. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine 96, 210-3

Further Information