I brushed up on human pre-history over a cheese and quince paste breakfast. We were going to visit the Avebury Henge and I wanted to be vaguely informed. I went back about 500,000 years and started working my forward. The Henge was constructed in 3000 BC – making the site 5000 years old. The henge contained a number of nested circles made up of huge rocks – all running through a ‘modern’ village. The site was added to over a time period of 1000 years. An outer circle was added as well as a boulevard of huge stones acting as an entryway extending over a mile from the site. As a prehistoric person visiting this region, you knew early that ‘this was the place’!
If you stood in the midst of the boulevard of stones on the crest overlooking the approach to the great nested circles of stones sitting in a huge earthworks henge and looked north you’d spot the enormous Uffington White Horse decorating the distant hillside. If you looked to the south you’d see the Silbury Hill – one of the tallest man-made hills.
Yep – this was the place. Some serious folk lived here!
I reflected on our visits to the cathedrals and thought about the time span in which they were created and the people of the times intention for creating them. People have been in the cathedral making business for about 600 years and how they have been used has altered significantly. The role and power of the church changed over time, plumbing and electric lights were added, and the community began using them in different ways – 12 step groups, community action committees now use them as much or more so than the worshippers. They still act as a place of religion, but they have become places of community culture as well.
I had thoughts about the evolution of the Avebury site along those same lines.
It’s conceivable that after 1000 years of building a gigantic religious site that everyone in the region would still be using it, but perhaps in different ways. Maybe it became more about the human sacrifice…or less. People may have gotten practical about allowing concession stands on-site. Seminar series and lectures in small outbuildings: “Making it in the new agrarian world: leaving the hunter/gatherer behind”?
The stones were pretty impressively large but what struck me equally impressive were the earth works around the circle. The builders moved staggering amounts of dirt…using deer antlers as a shovel.
All of it an impressive feat – almost inconceivable in an era that had just invented ‘the planting stick’…although I had to pull on some first hand knowledge from having a lot of boys in my life. They can move a lot of huge rocks, dig enormous holes and move a staggering amount of toys over long distances in short order. People have always been good at moving things and being ridiculously over-the-top.
We spent a better part of 2 hours wandering through the rocks and letting them talk to us. I regurgitated all the archeological facts I had gleaned over breakfast. Once we ran out of facts Kaety started pulling information from episodes of “Ancient Aliens’ she’d watched.
When we asked Symone if she’d had a good time she rolled her eyes and said, “Yay, rocks!”