In recent years the components of the Avebury complex have been dramatically added to with the discovery of two huge palisaded enclosures located halfway between Silbury Hill and the Sanctuary. They were first noticed as crop marks on aerial photographs by J.K.St.Joseph in the 1950s but serious research on them didn't commence until 1987 when Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University began a 5 year period of investigations. The layout of the site is quite complicated but basically consists of two large areas of land which were surrounded by timber palisading. One of these was circular with an inner row of palisading and the other was in the form of a letter C. Within and to the south of the C-shaped component were a number of smaller features of various shapes. The major dimension of each enclosure was about 275 metres and 340 metres respectively. The River Kennet flows through the middle of the double-ringed component. Loosely dated to around 2300BC it would seem that their construction took place after the avenues had been added to the henge. The palisading consisted of closely spaced wooden posts, almost certainly of oak, possibly as much as 3 feet in diameter and 25 feet high. The bulk of the artifacts found consisted of grooved-ware pottery, flint objects and an unusual abundance of pig bones. Evidence found seems to indicate that the enclosures were ultimately destroyed by fire. Nothing was found, however, that would indicate that they came under attack from hostile forces so the burning may have been a deliberate act.
The area of the enclosures
Sections of the enclosures which have been recorded are overlayed on this map.
There are some other examples of palisaded enclosures in the British Isles most notably at Mount Pleasant (Dorset), Dorchester, Dunragit (Stranraer) and the recently discovered monster at Hindwell (Radnorshire). The purpose of such enclosures remains something of a mystery but those at Avebury were proportional to the other components of the complex in that they were massive and represented a considerable expenditure of manpower.
The colossal amount of timber required to build these enclosures indicates that substantial woodland existed in the locality at that time. It also demonstrates the skills the builders had at felling and dressing trees, presumably with no more than flint implements.
With so little evidence of where the builders of Avebury's monuments actually lived it is the enclosures at West Kennet that may hold some of the most exciting revelations yet to come. Although current research dates them later than the henge and Silbury, this is based on some very wide radiocarbon assays. The considerable area they cover means that any excavations so far have been very limited in extent......future investigations may bring about revisions.