Not far from the more famous Stonehenge and the mysterious Silbury Hill, the standing stones of Avebury form the world’s largest megalithic stone circle, but shed little light on the purpose behind their existence and that of their brethren.
Likely placed around 2600 BCE, the circles within circles of stones at the site (now a village) known as Avebury paint one of the more complete pictures of a prehistoric ritual site to be found anywhere in the world. It is believed that the broad Avebury henge contained around 600 standing stones, though only around 76 survive today after various preservation and excavation efforts, and a handful more are thought to still be buried. There is evidence of ancient Roman occupation in the area, at which time the stones would still have been hundreds of years old, and combined with later occupation by devoted Christian peoples, the stones were likely destroyed across the years, being seen as a pagan affront.
The exterior circle of stones is bordered by a ditch which would have been deeper at the time of the site’s construction but is now a shallower indent around the outer circle. Inside the larger circle is a matching pair of smaller circles with stone-lined avenues weaving between all of them. The site was clearly set-up to lead worshippers on a directed path through the stones for whatever ritualistic purpose they intended.
Despite the far greater number of stones and more elaborate construction than Stonehenge, the Avebury stones have shed almost no new light on their true purpose or that of their similar cousins. Due to the continuing enigma of these stones and those like them, the Avebury circles have become a popular site among neo-pagans and tourists alike. Whatever was truly worshipped by the stones’ neolithic builders, the site’s fascination continues to this day.