Henges are Neolithic earthworks, which consist of a circular area defined by a bank and ditch construction. Within the henge are often other circular structures made of wood or stone.
Avebury Henge, dated at 3,000 BC, includes the largest stone circle in the world. The Henge covers 28 acres, and the circumference of the outer bank is nearly a mile long. It is estimated that the site once included a minimum of 247 standing stones within the outer bank, plus an additional 400 stones forming two avenues, connected to the Henge.
Inside the bank and ditch is the Great Circle, originally built with 98 sarcen slabs, which surround two adjacent smaller circles (North and South) of 30 stones each. There were four entrances to the Henge, two of which were ceremonial avenues (Beckhampton and West Kennet.)
The stones originally came from Marlborough Downs, but unlike Stonehenge, these sarcens were not dressed; rather they were left rough, and clearly show the holes left from the decaying plant roots once embedded in the sedimentary rock.
Currently, many of the stones are missing, having been used by villagers for construction projects over the years.
The Cove is the name given to the stones in the center of the North Circle, and is considered one of the earliest parts of the Henge. Only two stones remain of the original three: a tall narrow "male" stone, and a shorter wider "female" stone.
The Barber Stone
The Barber Stone, part of the Great Circle, is so named because of human remains dicovered beneath the stone during excavations. Artifacts found indicated that the body was that of a barber-surgeon. It is still debated whether his death was an accident during the construction, or if he was purposely buried there.
The Sanctuary was once a circular structure made of wood, which may have served as the terminal point to the Avebury Henge. There were 6 rings of timbers, believed to have been 3 separate structures build one after the other. Each successive structure was possibly built to protect the preceeding older structures. Eventually, a stone circle was established, but they have long since been removed. The holes denoting the original structures are currently identified by concrete markers.
Purpose of Avebury Henge
While Stonehenge is generally accepted as having an astronomical purpose, Avebury Henge was most likely used for human rituals celebrating birth, life and death.
Leylines are hypothetical alignments of important monuments, and are often said to follow energy patterns from the earth. It is said that Avebury lies at the intersection of two prominent leylines.
There is a pair of leylines or currents of male and female energy that run from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall to East Anglia, so strong they have been named the Michael and Mary lines. They link many sacred sites en route but, significantly, they actually cross at Avebury. (Link)
Avebury (This is a comprehensive site that I highly recommend.)
Etva's Wiltshire County Series
West Kennet Long Barrow (3,650 BC)
Stonehenge (3,100 BC)
Old Sarum (3,000 BC)
Avebury Henge (3,000 BC)