Neolithic Avenues

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The Stonehenge Avenue

The construction of the Avenue has been related to the Bluestone Circles. Lt.-Col. Hawley noted that there were 'mason's chips' only in the top layer of the Avenue fill and not below, suggesting that the Avenue 'preceded Stonehenge by a fairly long interval'. However, Hawley in the same report published a section of the Avenue which showed bluestone chips in the upper part of the 'yellow chalk rubble' of the primary silts (Hawley, 1925, 24). R. C. G. Clay in the 1927 excavation noted that there were no sarsen or bluestone chips in the Avenue fill and as the dressing of the stones probably took place at Stonehenge itself, no chippings could be expected in the area of West Amesbury.

the Avenue, as it descends to the River Avon, crosses what appears to be a river terrace of Pleistocene age. The geological substratum is complex, solid Chalk being nowhere exposed and the ditch of the Avenue being cut into deposits on the terrace which have been mixed and convoluted by periglacial activity. The deposits are of the following types : river sand, derived in part from the Greensand through which the Avon passes in the Vale of Pewsey; flint gravel, similar to the gravel deposits which are sometimes found in the bottoms of dry valleys in the Chalk, where they also show periglacial structures; loess. These deposits are involved in involutions with disaggregated chalk, which are revealed in plan over the stripped area of the site and in section in the side of the Avenue ditch. In the upper part of the site the involutions involve gravel, sand and chalk, the sand being conspicuous in a zone running across the site and apparently originally underlying the gravel. In the lower part of the site loess is mixed with chalk in involutions which involve no sand and no gravel other than the flint fragments derived directly from the chalk. A festoon of chalky loessic material extends over sandy and gravelly material, but otherwise the loess and the sand and gravel appear to be mutually exclusive, and in the exposure available it was not possible to establish their stratigraphic relation- ships. The sand may be the remains of the river deposits associated with formation of the terrace; it is possible that the river at that time ran north and west of Gallows Hill, through the present system of dry valleys, and the flint gravel would have been formed in these dry valleys in glacial times.

The soil over the site has b

The only other henge monument with an extant avenue in Southern England is Avebury, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, where the West Kennet Avenue is defined by standing stones rather than banks and ditches. Burials with bell beakers were associated with some of the stones. The width of the West Kennet Avenue is comparable to the width between the two internal banks of the Stonehenge Avenue : West Kennet Avenue, average width 14.5 m. (50 ft.), Stonehenge Avenue, average width 18 m. (60 ft.). Like the Stonehenge Avenue, the West Kennet Avenue does not follow a straight course yet seems to have been laid out in a number of straight sections. The Beckhampton Longstones are the surviving members of a structure apparently related to the destroyed Beckhampton Avenue, which appears to have run westwards from the Avebury henge across the Winterbourne (Smith, 1965, 216-7). A burial with a bell beaker had been placed at the foot of one of the Long- stones. The Stanton Drew stone circles, south of Bristol, have the remains of two stone avenues which may have joined together to run to the River Chew (Grinsell, 1956). There seems to be a frequent association between Late Neolithic henge monu- ments and rivers, whether by proximity or by connecting avenues. There can be little doubt that the Stonehenge Avenue was of a ceremonial nature and as such provided, a formal approach to Stonehenge itself From the River Avon there are two viable routes to Stonehenge, one from West Amesbury and one from Ratfyn; both are of similar distances. Stukeley believed that the Avenue terminated at Ratfyn ; considering the unexpected turn of the Avenue down to West Amesbury, it may have been originally constructed with the aim of a terminal at Ratfyn and then changed in plan during construction. This suggests that if the river was used for transport the route was up the river, as by landing at West Amesbury the circuitous meander south of Amesbury was avoided.