Durrington, South West England Region, United Kingdom
Durrington Walls is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It is 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury. Excavations on the site by a team led by the University of Sheffield, support an estimate of a community of several thousand, thought to be the largest one of its age in north-west Europe. At 500m in diameter, the henge is the largest in Britain and recent evidence suggests that it was a complementary monument to Stonehenge.
Although there is evidence of some early Neolithic activity at the site, most of the structures seem to have been built in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. At some point around approximately 2600BC, a large timber circle was constructed. It is now known as the Southern Circle. The circle was oriented southeast towards the sunrise on the midwinter solstice and consisted of four large concentric circles of postholes, which would have held extremely large standing timbers. A metalled avenue was also constructed on a slightly different alignment – towards the sunset on the summer solstice – that led to the River Avon. This feature is similar to the Stonehenge Avenue. A large timber post lay on this orientation, about as far away from the circle as the Heelstone is from Stonehenge.
Excavations and Theories
Richard Colt Hoare noted Durrington Walls in 1810, and observed that centuries of agriculture had left “its form much mutilated”. Geoffrey Wainwright excavated the route of the new A345 in 1966. He discovered the southern timber circle as well as a smaller one slightly north of it. Since 2003 the Stonehenge Riverside Project, led by Mike Parker Pearson, has carried out annual excavations at Durrington Walls. It identified the Neolithic village and avenue to the river.
The name comes from the civil parish in which the site is located – Durrington, meaning “the farm of doers people” (doer-deer, ing-people/tribe, tun-farm/settlement), and the large henge banks that surround it.