It is now believed to be the first prehistoric “stone square” ever discovered – in Britain or continental Europesb-7-arch-tour

One of Britain’s most famous prehistoric monuments  – Avebury in Wiltshire – may be substantially more ancient than previously thought.

Investigations within the UNESCO World Heritage designated stone circle – the largest in Britain – have revealed a hitherto unknown, and probably very early, series of ancient standing stones, are arranged, not as a circle, but as a 30 metre by 30 metre square.

It is believed to be the first prehistoric “stone square” ever discovered – in Britain or continental Europe.  It is conceivable that the newly discovered monument, which would have originally consisted of around 17 standing stones, was built up to a thousand years before both Stonehenge’s  and Avebury’s surviving stone circles.

Read the full article in the Independent:  David Keys Archaeology Correspondent.

We operate daily guided tours of Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle.  Many going inside the inner circle.  Join us on guided tour with our expert guides and learn more about this amazing discovery.

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AN archaeological study claims to shed light on the few remaining mysteries which still surround Stonehenge.

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Unhenged… early excavations at Stonehenge were deemed unimportant at the time, but a new study has shed light on the site C -Getty

For years, the rock monoliths at the popular tourist site in Wiltshire have been a source of great speculation, with nobody certain as to why or how the prehistoric monument was built.

The most prominent theory is that the site, which was constructed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, served as an ancient burial ground.

This theory gained traction after the remains of an estimated 59 individuals were found in the area in the 1920s, but the bones uncovered then were deemed unimportant at the time and were never properly analysed.

But now archaeologists have been able to successfully carbon date the remains of at least 27 adults at the site, reinforcing the theory that Stonehenge was built to be a final resting place for our ancient ancestors.

Fresh analysis of these bones has revealed that they were buried over a 500 year period between 3,100BC and 2,600BC.

Full story in The Sun 

Join the experts on a Stonehenge guided tour and learn more about this mysterious monument and all the latest theories.

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What do we know about Wiltshire? we asked one another as we headed off for a weekend break.

And, to our shame, the answer was little.

Vist Stonehenge

The World Heritage Site of Stonehenge near Salisbury in Wiltshire

As one of the country’s lesser known counties, Wiltshire had us stumped for its list of attractions much beyond Stonehenge.

But there are parts of the county you’ll already know well, even if you don’t know their names.

From the chocolate-box village of Lacock– location for Meryton in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – to Mompesson House in Salisbury – used in the Emma Thompson film of Sense and Sensibility – there are places period drama fans at least will know very well.

Other draws – not just Stonehenge, but Swindon, Salisbury Cathedral, the sweet little village of Bradford on Avon, and stately homes aplenty – are here too, making Wiltshire a perfect destination for an attractions-packed short break.

We were taking in the county from the stress-free comfort of a coach, safe in the knowledge negotiating a route and finding somewhere to park would be taken care of for us, and we’d be able to really see the scenery, not just the road ahead.

A packed itinerary made for a whistlestop tour – quite literally at our first stop, Swindon and the Great Western Railway Museum STEAM, where our guide spoke with such passion about the heyday of the railway you could almost hear the pistons and smell the coal.

It was here thousands of men once toiled, making Swindon the locomotive manufacturing capital of the world – and where, tragically, all that now remains is a poignantly moving museum, and replica period platforms with carriages from through the ages to wander through and explore.

Onwards to Stonehenge we explored history of an altogether vintage.

We were surprised by the 4,500-year-old stone circle’s scale – smaller than we had imagined – and a little underwhelmed by its acclaimed new ‘world class’ English Heritage open air visitor centre which, on the wet and blustery day we were there, allowed the rain to lash in.

But we could not fail to be impressed by Stonehenge’s enduring enigma – and, as a British ‘must see’, we were pleased to have seen it.

There was history of yet another kind at Salisbury Cathedral – home to the finest of the four surviving original 1215 Magna Carta documents, marking their 800th year in 2015. A major new anniversary exhibition explores one of the most celebrated documents in English history and it was spine-tingling to see the parchment skin and tightly-packed Latin script up close.

Salisbury has been ranked the seventh best city in the world to visit during 2015 – and the Magna Carta is one reason for that, but there are plenty of others too.

The cathedral itself is full of interest, explained to us by an extremely enthusiastic guide. Afterwards we found Chorister’s Green, the beautiful lawned square outside the cathedral, to be the city’s prettiest spot.

It was here scenes for Sense and Sensibility were filmed in 1995, at the calm and elegant Mompesson House – a Queen Anne townhouse of perfect proportions and symmetry, its interiors decorated as they might have been in the 1700s.

A few doors along, we visited Arundells, the home of former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, whose wish was ‘for the public to share the enjoyment’ of his house after his death. We were given a tour by his clearly devoted former landscape gardener, now the house’s manager and curator, whose personal anecdotes added a unique intimacy and depth to rooms still furnished with Sir Edward’s furniture, ornaments, ceramics and books.

In the National Trust village of Lacock we wandered pretty winding streets, popped into perfect pubs and gazed at timber-framed 13th century cottages so unspoilt by the modern age it’s obvious why they were chosen as a backdrop for Pride and Prejudice and the Harry Potter films.

Read the full story in the Star: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/travel-discovering-hidden-gem-is-best-by-coach-1-7093719

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Avebury Stone Circle rivals – some would say exceeds – Stonehenge as the largest, most impressive and complex prehistoric site in Britain. 

Built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC to 2200 BC, it now appears as a huge circular bank and ditch, enclosing an area of 281 ⁄2 acres (111 ⁄2 hectares), including part of Avebury village.Within this ‘henge’ ditch is an inner circle of great standing stones, enclosing two more stone circles, each with a central feature.

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The site’s present appearance owes much to the marmalade heir Alexander Keiller, who excavated and re-erected many stones during the 1930s, and whose archaeological collections are displayed in the nearby museum. Many stones had been broken or buried in medieval and later times, one crushing its destroyer as it fell.

Avebury is part of a wider complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, with many other ritual sites in English Heritage care. West Kennet Avenue joined it to The Sanctuary, and another stone avenue connected it with Beckhampton. West Kennet Long Barrow and Windmill Hill are also nearby, as is the huge and mysterious Silbury Hill. This extraordinary assemblage of sites seemingly formed a huge ‘sacred landscape’, whose use and purpose can still only be guessed at. Avebury and its surroundings have, with Stonehenge, achieved international recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Avebury Henge and Stone Circles are in the freehold ownership of The National Trust and in English Heritage guardianship. They are managed by The National Trust on behalf of English Heritage, and the two organisations share the cost of managing and maintaining the property.

Take a tour of Stonehenge and discover more about the neolithic man and the landscape they shaped. At Avebury, walk amongst the stones, visit the Alexander Keiller Museum to find out about the arcaeological excavations Keiller did in the 1930s and visit the Avebury Manor and Garden, nearby West Kennet Long Barrow.

Avebury Links:
The Henge Shop – a unique location in the centre of Avebury, the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world.
English HeritageAvebury Stone Circle.
Stonehenge Guided Tours: Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle Tours
National Trust:  Avebury Visitor Information Centre
Visit Wiltshire:
Official Wiltshire Tourism Authority

Avebury News Updates:
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Stonehenge visitors will soon be able to trace the route along which people in prehistoric Britain made their way to the monument, when new visitor facilities open to the public.

From 18 December visitors will be able to walk along the newly completed Stonehenge Avenue, which will have been reconnected to the stone circle after being severed by the A344 road for centuries.

They will also be able to explore an exhibition of almost 300 prehistoric artefacts such as tools, jewellery and pottery.

Visitors will enjoy a 360-degree virtual, immersive experience, allowing them to ‘stand in the stones’, before they enter a gallery presenting the facts and theories surrounding Stonehenge through artefacts.

Many of the artefacts will be on show for the first time.

The permanent exhibition, curated by English Heritage experts, will be housed in a new visitor building located 1.5 miles to the west of Stonehenge.

The centre boasts indoor and outdoor seating for up to 260 people, a dedicated education space, and new, downloadable and hand-held free audio guides in 10 languages.

The £27m project also includes grassing over a section of the A344, which was closed permanently in June.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: “This world famous monument, perpetually described as a mystery, finally has a place in which to tell its story.

“The exhibition, created with imagination and rigour, will change the way people experience and think about Stonehenge forever – beyond the clichés and towards a meaningful inquiry into an extraordinary human achievement in the distant past.

“The exhibition will put at its centre the individuals associated with its creation and use, and I am very proud with what we have to unveil to the world in December.”

Stonehenge started as an early form of henge monument, built around 5,000 years ago, where prehistoric people buried their cremated dead.

It was built in several stages, with the lintelled stone circle being erected in the Neolithic period in around 2,500 BC.

Stonehenge remained important into the early Bronze Age (2,200–1,500 BC), when many burial mounds were built nearby.

Submitted by Emma McFarnon (http://www.historyextra.com/news/%E2%80%98missing-piece%E2%80%99-stonehenge-avenue-open-visitors-december)

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