No description of the major elements of prehistoric Avebury would be complete without a reference to Windmill Hill. Perhaps it lacks the attraction of the others but it is nevertheless one of the most important components in gaining a fuller understanding of how Avebury evolved. Its importance wasn't recognised until the early 1920s when it came to the attention of Alexander Keiller who bought it to prevent Marconi from putting a radio aerial on it. He then went on to carry out a productive investigation of the site which was to justify his investment. Although other researchers have given it attention over the following years much of it remains unexcavated.
Situated on the higher ground to the north-west of the henge it was found to be the location of an early Neolithic settlement dated to about 3700 BC. It was during this same period that the West Kennet Long Barrow was built a few miles to the south. Windmill Hill was later to become a causewayed enclosure when banks and ditches were dug about 3250 BC. The site produced a large number of finds. As well as numerous items of pottery and flint artifacts there was much evidence of farming practices including crop-growing, cattle-rearing and the raising of pig, sheep and goats thus proving that by the time the massive monuments of Silbury Hill and the Avebury Henge were built hundreds of years later a very sophisticated culture was already in existence.
The site is relatively distant from the henge but it can be accessed by a small road and track via Avebury Trusloe. Its most prominent features are some small round barrows which were built during the Bronze Age and are what remains of a once extensive barrow cemetery which has now been ploughed away. The ditches and banks of the much earlier enclosure are now more subtle and can be confused with the evidence of some relatively recent quarrying that has left its mark. It is well worth a visit as its elevation and quiet remoteness offer a wonderful view of Silbury and Waden Hill as they sit in the Avebury landscape below.
The Avebury landscape from Windmill Hill (scroll to view)
Atop the best preserved Bronze Age round barrow (scroll to view)
for large scale plan
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description by Rosamund Cleal.