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The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary, situated on Overton Hill next to the Ridgeway near Avebury, was begun around 3,000 B.C.E. It originally comprised six concentric rings of timber uprights. Later, the timbers were replaced by double stone circles. The site, of which only the post and stone holes remain today (now marked by concrete blocks) was destroyed in the 18th century, but not before William Stukeley made a drawing of it (below, right). Excavations have suggested that the site was used for feasting and for some form of mortuary ritual.

For Stukeley, the Sanctuary represented the head of a great stone serpent the body of which was formed by the West Kennet Avenue and the Beckhampton Avenue.

(left William Stukeley's 'great stone serpent', with the Sanctuary located on Overton Hill)

The photograph on the left below is a view of the Sanctuary taken from the West Kennet Long Barrow. The Sanctuary is located about mid-way along the ridge, which is also the line of the Ridgeway. Along the Ridgeway to the left of the Sanctuary can be seen two burial mounds. The photograph on the right is a view of Silbury Hill seen from the Sanctuary. The flat-topped summit of the hill, visible above the trees, is in line with the distant horizon.

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