Millennium Stadium of Neolithic Man?

Thursday 22 Feb 2007 a day to remember.

I accompanied fellow CASE astronomer Martin Griffiths, CASE anthropologist Kath Williams and the first year undergrads to Avebury, camera in hand, to record the day. This was my first opportunity to visit, so full-blown man flu was not going to stop me. As usual the rain was falling at an alarming rate when we left the bus a mile or so outside the Avebury complex. The students prepared for the conditions by dressing ‘appropriately’ in Roman Togas. Then we were off.

A gentle stroll through the quagmire accompanied by several episodes of coughing gave me my first view of Silbury hill. This was an impressive structure standing 130 feet tall. Its purpose is shrouded in mystery but it is believed to have been built around 2500 BC. After this spectacular view I was filled with anticipation of what was to come.So the next stop on the tour was one of the burial chambers placed on top of a nice little hill. However, this little hill was extremely slippery and became a struggle for many with students spread far and wide. When everyone eventually arrived at the chamber Martin and Kath gave short talks on its origins, use and particular alignments. The students listened attentively to the talks and asked pertinent question, whilst still dressed in Togas! An interesting sight for several tourists visiting the site.

Then we were of again, back down the hill heading in the direction of Silbury Hill. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the avenue, which is lined by large standing stones. If your taking hallucinogenic drugs then faces can appear to you as you walk the length of the avenue. Eventually the avenue leads you to the standing stone circles. This was an extremely impressive place not just due to its sheer size, but also for the calmness you find whilst standing within it. No I’m not turning all mystical here! The calmness arose due to the large bank and ditch surrounding the structure that protected you from the wind. It was at this point that it struck me, could Avebury actually be the Millennium stadium of Neolithic man?! There’s something for you to ponder on; you never know I could be right! England taking on Wales in some game for the right to win the Preseli Blue Stones? Ok, now I’m getting carried away.

Overall this was an extremely enjoyable experience for all and a valuable opportunity for students to learn about ancient cultures and their beliefs. Thanks Martin for arranging such a great trip!

Written by Allan Trow

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