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LONG MEG and her daughters


Long Meg and Her Daughters is the third largest English stone circle (the other two being the outer circle at Avebury, in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew, in Avon). The monument dates from the Bronze Age and it consists in a huge ring (the Daughters) of almost 60 local porphyritic stones and in a tall outlier (Long Meg). The circle measures 109.4 x 93m (359 x 305ft) and it lies on a slight slope, with the east and west cardinal points marked by two massive blocks and an entrance at the south-west defined by two large boulders and by two further stones lying outside the ring.
Long Meg is a 3.6m (12ft) high block of red sandstone 72.6m (238ft) south-west from the circle centre: this is the alignement of the midwinter sunset. On its north-east face there are some ring and spiral carvings, perhaps reflecting its astronomical alignement. The decorated side of Long Meg doesn't face the circle, so the outlier and the ring maybe are not contemporary. Aerial photographs of the site have revealed that the circle is enclosed in a bank, not visible from the ground.
In the 18th century there was an attempt to destroy the stones, but a tremendous thunderstorm and superstitions stopped the project. For the local tradition, Long Meg and her daughters were a coven of witches turned into stones by a saint (or a powerful wizard) during their sabbath. As many other megalithic monuments, these stones are said to be uncountable: it is impossible to get the same total, but if anyone can do it twice, the spell will be broken. Another story says that Long Meg would bleed if broken down



This is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts of England. Its ramparts enclose an area of 18 hectares (45 acres), and it is 2.5km (1.5mi) around the inner circumference.
The early construction of Maiden Castle took place around 3000 BC. In the late Neolithic period a massive long barrow, over 545m (1788ft) in length, was constructed. About 450 BC the hillfort was extended westwards and by the third century BC ramparts and ditches were enlarged, with two complex entrances at the east and at the west of the hill.
In the Iron Age, between 350 and 70 BC, Maiden Castle became a flourishing town and massive triple and double ramparts were constructed as well as complex entrances. In AD 43 the second Roman Legion commanded by Vespasian attacked the eastern gateway and succeeded in subjugating the population. In Dorchester Museum can be seen the spine of one of the defenders with a Roman iron arrowhead embedded in the bones. By AD 70 the survivors of the massacre had moved down into the new Roman town of Durnovaria, now Dorchester, and Maiden Castle was deserted.

One final development in the hillfort was the building of a small Romano-Celtic temple 12m (40ft) square, in the late fourth century AD. Its foundations can still be seen in the north-east sector of the fort.
At the east end of this mound have been found remains which suggest a macabre ritual murder: a man about thirty years old and 1.6m (5ft 4in) in height had been hacked to death and dismembered before being buried in the mound. This murder has been dated to about AD 635, that is in Saxon times.




The largest man-made prehistoric mound in Europe is 39.6 m (130 ft) high

Silbury Hill, part of the complex of Neolithic monuments around Avebury in Wiltshire (which includes the West Kennet long barrow), is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe and one of the world's largest. 39.6m (130ft) high, on a base covering over 2 hectares (5 acres): it is a display of immense technical skill and prolongued control over labour and resources. The archaeologists calculate that Silbury Hill has been built about 4600 years ago and it took 18 million man-hours to construct. 248,000 cubic metres (8.75 million cu ft) of earth has been aggregated on top of a natural hill: every man, woman and child in Britain today could together build such a mound if they contributed one bucketfull of earth each.
The base of the monument is 167m (550ft) in diameter and it is pefectly round. Its summit is flat-topped and 30m (100ft) wide. We know that the building took place in two phases: soon after work was started, a re-design was ordered, and the mound enlarged. It is constructed in steps, each step being filled in with packed chalk, and then smoothed off. There have been three excavations of the mound: the first when a team of Cornish miners led by the Duke of Northumberland sunk a shaft from top to bottom in 1776, another in 1849 when a tunnel was dug from edge into the centre, and a third in 1968-70 when professor Richard Atkinson had another tunnel cut into the base. Nothing has ever been found on Silbury Hill: at its core there is only clay, flints, turf, moss, topsoil, gravel, freshwater shells, mistletoe, oak, hazel, sarsen stones, ox bones and antler tines.
Moses B.Cotworth, at the beginning of this century, stated that Silbury was a giant sundial to determine seasons and the true length of the year. More recently, the writer Michael Dames has identified Silbury Hill as the winter goddess but he finally aknowledges that the monument remain a stupendous enigma.
According to legend, this is the last resting place of King Sil, sitting on a fabled golden horse. Another legend states that the mound holds a lifesize solid gold statue of King Sil and yet a third, that the Devil was carrying an apron of soil to drop on the citizens of Marlborough, but he was stopped by the priests of nearby Avebury.

Silbury Hill is the largest man-made mound in North West Europe. The origins of the hill appear to lie within a low turf mound piled up within a ring of wicker fencing. The entire construction took around 50 years to complete. Radiocarbon dating suggests the earliest possible date for the this work could be somewhere around 3630 BCE. It seems likely that there was some link to the celebration of the harvest.




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