West Overton and Avebury’s Neolithic surroundings

Our cottage in the quiet village of West Overton with its single pub and lovely church was within walking distance of the Avebury UNESCO World Heritage site, a landscape of neolithic and bronze- age monuments scattered amid bright yellow fields of flowering rape seed and lush green pastures. Only in Orkney have I felt physically closer to our neolithic past. The town of Avebury is simultaneously acutely aware of and blasé about its daily existence in this once-sacred prehistoric, ceremonial landscape. A modern cross roads in the middle of the largest- known stone circle in Britain may follow neolithic procession routes, and part of the modern village of Avebury occupies areas inside the circle. Abandoned and largely ignored in the early iron age, there is evidence that it had become a tourist destination in Roman times. In late medieval times, the site became associated with the devil and many stones were toppled until one fell on a worker, killing him and making recovery of the body impossible. Destruction ceased for a while, and the Black Death created other priorities, but destruction resumed again in the late 17th and into the 18th centuries. By the 19th, most of the most of the standing stones were gone, buried by pious locals or broken into building stone for the growing village. Sir John Lubbock, in an attempt to  preserve the site, purchased much of the available land. Since then many of the fallen stones have been excavated and re-erected, and at least 15 others (one estimated to weigh more than 100 tons) remain buried. Today, the village, while catering to tourists, has avoided becoming a theme park, and the existence of a modern village in and around this ancient sacred site is somehow endearing. The neolithic West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill, West Kennet Avenue, Sanctuary, Silbury Hill and the Seven Barrows (actually 12 bronze-age burial mounds) all set in a modern agricultural landscape create an intriguing mix of prehistory and modern life.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
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West Overton and Avebury’s Neolithic

surroundings

Our cottage in the quiet village of West Overton with its single pub and lovely church was within walking distance of the Avebury UNESCO World Heritage site, a landscape of neolithic and bronze- age monuments scattered amid bright yellow fields of flowering rape seed and lush green pastures. Only in Orkney have I felt physically closer to our neolithic past. The town of Avebury is simultaneously acutely aware of and blasé about its daily existence in this once-sacred prehistoric, ceremonial landscape. A modern cross roads in the middle of the largest- known stone circle in Britain may follow neolithic procession routes, and part of the modern village of Avebury occupies areas inside the circle. Abandoned and largely ignored in the early iron age, there is evidence that it had become a tourist destination in Roman times. In late medieval times, the site became associated with the devil and many stones were toppled until one fell on a worker, killing him and making recovery of the body impossible. Destruction ceased for a while, and the Black Death created other priorities, but destruction resumed again in the late 17th and into the 18th centuries. By the 19th, most of the most of the standing stones were gone, buried by pious locals or broken into building stone for the growing village. Sir John Lubbock, in an attempt to  preserve the site, purchased much of the available land. Since then many of the fallen stones have been excavated and re-erected, and at least 15 others (one estimated to weigh more than 100 tons) remain buried. Today, the village, while catering to tourists, has avoided becoming a theme park, and the existence of a modern village in and around this ancient sacred site is somehow endearing. The neolithic West Kennet Long Barrow, Windmill Hill, West Kennet Avenue, Sanctuary, Silbury Hill and the Seven Barrows (actually 12 bronze-age burial mounds) all set in a modern agricultural landscape create an intriguing mix of prehistory and modern life.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow