Avebury stone circles were actually ovals, says amateur archaeologist

Written by Peter Davison.


Paul DawPaul DawA former professional surveyor says the map of Avebury – unchallenged since the 1700s – needs to be redrawn.

Amateur archaeologist Paul Daw spent 18 days mapping the neolithic site between September 2013 and July last year, using metal dowsing rods, as well as his experience of building and planning as a surveyor.

The 39-page report produced from his findings suggests that the Inner South Circle was not a circle, but in fact egg-shaped.

“The maps showing stone circles were produced by William Stukeley in the 1720s,” says Mr Daw, who is secretary of the Stone Circle and Henge Trust.

“But when Stukeley visited, 90 percent of the stones had been destroyed. In fact, it is believed that many were used to build the chapel in Green Street.

My Daw says his finds could change the way we think about Avebury.

“I have also located the inner North Stone Circle, which is far from circular as Stukeley thought it to be, and I have found that stones Stukeley thought were part of the Inner North Circle are, in fact, part of a collection of smaller stone circles, and possibly some timber circles.”

Two of those smaller circles, he says, may have been deliberately sited within The Great Henge as they are on elevated spots visible from the top of Silbury Hill.

“Anyone processing along the West Kennet Avenue and through the southern entrance stones would become visible from the top of Silbury Hill the moment they stepped inside the Inner Stone Circle,” he says. “I find it hard to believe this could be a coincidence.”

“At the Great Circle Henge I have found that there were nine stone or timber circles, and two mini henges, in addition to the Cove, both of which have been located using magnetometry [the archaeological equivalent of an x-ray] and aerial photography.”

He says he has also identified an avenue at the northern entrance of the Great Circle.

Mr Daw uses dowsing rods to locate the socket positions of missing stones. As Alexander Keiller discovered in the 1930s, the large stones were propped up in their foundations by an infill of rubble. It is these remains - marked by Keiller with concrete markers wherever he found them - that Mr Daw says dowsing can help to identify.

He recognises the scepticism of many in the archaeological community towards dowsing, but is at pains to point out that he has been mapping stone circles since 1998, while he only started dowsing in 2007, after being introduced to it at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire.

He’ll even admit he doesn’t know how it works. “I have a medical condition where I have too much iron in my blood,” he says. “It could be that. I really don’t know.

His finds have been logged at Wiltshire Council’s Historic Environment Record.