September 27, 2011
On September 19th, Dickinson science students woke up to a rainy day in Bath. At around 9 a.m. we all left our hostel to board the coach and travel to Avebury, located about an hour away in Wiltshire, England. Many students were very excited to travel to Avebury, as they have heard that you can actually go up and touch the prehistoric rocks, unlike the world famous Stonehenge. When we arrived at Avebury, we all marveled at the extensive land that stretched over the horizon, and we were eager to learn more about this historical place. We began by taking a short walk through the Avebury museum to find out more about the mystical rocks.
Like Stonehenge, Avebury too is a mystery. In the museum, students learned about what the stones at Avebury could have meant, and how the stones were excavated. Avebury is the largest stone circle in the British isles. The reason why Avebury is such an important attraction is because it was said to have been to first time people physically manipulated the land. Although there is very little evidence about the people who lived during the time Avebury was constructed, historians have said that the stones were moved by humans in a significant way. We are separated from the people who may have constructed the stones at Avebury by over 4,000 years (160 generations), so it is very difficult to explain why the stones were placed where they were. One of the most probable ideas was probably for religious sacrifice, or spiritual gatherings. This may have been a place where people came to worship, pray, or meditate.
Avebury was excavated in 1930 by Alexander Keiller. Keiller and his team were responsible for restoring the buried stones to their original placement. Although there was little evidence as to where the stones were actually place, he strategically lifted the stones to where researchers thought the stones stood. He also was responsible for creating the museum to teach people about the possible meanings behind Avebury.
After we visited the museum, students were able to walk around and explore the stones for themselves. Avebury is made up 3 stone circles. We were able to walk around Avebury and see the beauty it had to offer. This was my favorite part of the day. It was very peaceful walking from one circle to the next, as there are many hills and just extensive amounts of land spanning across the horizon. At first, I had a hard team seeing the appeal of Avebury. Since we are so far removed from the people who created Avebury, it was difficult for me to have a deep connection to the land. But as I continued to walk peacefully up and down the hills, from one circle to the next, I was able to soak in the beauty of the place and see that this place was very special to a lot of people. Being able to walk along the hills and admire the land I was looking at, made me realize how special this place was for me too.
We soon departed Avebury, and headed towards Stonehenge. We were all very eager to arrive at Stonehenge because it is a place we have all heard about at one point or another, and we were finally able to see it for ourselves. I found that Stonehenge is very different from Avebury. Although the formation of rocks may have had similar meanings, Stonehenge itself is only once circle of rock formations, while Avebury was composed of three. We were each given little headsets to walk around with to learn more about Stonehenge as we circled the great site.
Stonehenge is Europe’s most famous neolithic monument dating from 2800 BC. While the meaning of Stonehenge is also unknown like Avebury, more historians have attributed the rock formations as a temple to the sun, moon, planets and stars, an astronomical clock. Some also say that Stonehenge was used as a burial site, as there have been human remains found buried beneath the ground. Stonehenge was built in three parts; Stonehenge 1 (Neolithic age), Stonehenge 2 (2100 B.C.), and finally Stonehenge 3 (2000 B.C.). Stonehenge 3 is what we see today when people visit the site. Each stage of the construction of Stonehenge led to what it is today. It began as some dug up holes in the ground with 2 upright rocks, to massive stone placed strategically together, powered by humans.
I think that Stonehenge and Avebury relate to our course in an interesting way. There is so much mystery behind the construction of these stones, that will possibly never be found out. This is how science works as well. There are lots of unknowns in science, why we do what we do, and why one theory works as opposed to another. Apart from the “mystery” aspect, these sites may have been places for scientific observation. Stonehenge and Avebury quite possibly were sites for exploration of the sun, moon, and stars. Some of our modern teachings of the solar system may have come from these very sites. Since there are so many unknowns that surrounds these two places, it’s hard to connect their significance to our lives today. Some of the students found it difficult to connect to these places since there is so much mysticism behind it. All in all, we each made our own conclusions as to why these stones were place as they were, and although we may never know the mystery behind it all, that’s what makes these places so special. Most things in our modern world are concrete and definite, and we can also search on google for the answer we are looking for. Here, there is none of that, which leads me to believe that there is undoubtedly some beauty in the unknown.