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Stanton Drew

16 17 The wooden Building before the stones Possibly contemporary with the henge ditch enclosure, on the site of what would later become the Great Circle, stood a massive woodhenge, larger and older than the examples at either Avebury or Woodhenge. When originally constructed, four to five hundred oak pillars, probably a metre 3.28ft in diameter and 26 feet in height, and each weighing 5 tons, occupied an area about the size of a football field. They were set in nine concentric circles, a highly symbolic number there are nine worlds in many ancient cosmologies, and would likely have been carved or decorated. This sophisticated structure was discovered in 1997 by the English Heritage geophysical survey and could easily have accommodated a thousand people if not more, suggesting its use as a possible focal point for social or religious gatherings. A common theory is that the site might have been dedicated to funerary ritual, but a host of other explanations have been put forward. Britain boasts many other woodhenge sites or timber temples, as some authorities quaintly refer to them, including Balfarg in Fife, Scotland and Mount Pleasant in Dorset and the Seahenge site on the Norfolk coast, but Stanton Drew is the largest of them all. The woodhenge was eventually replaced by the stones of the Great Circle, a similar story to the Sanctuary at Avebury, where a stone circle still stood in Stukeleys day replacing the original roundhouse there. Whether the stones formed part of the original woodhenge design or came later still remains to be established.
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