A causewayed enclosure, the core of a round barrow cemetery, part of a prehistoric field system and an associated mortuary enclosure on Windmill Hill
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- Winterbourne Monkton
- National Grid Reference:
- SU 08711 71462
Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country.
Windmill Hill is one of the most important and well-documented sites in the Avebury area. It spans the period during which Avebury and its associated ceremonial sites emerged and developed and the area as a whole rose to the status as a core area within the Wessex landscape. The causewayed enclosure is unusual in that it appears to have been sited on an earlier field system and then later used for a combination of secular and ritual activities. The ritual aspect appears to have become prominent, possibly in line with the changing status of the Avebury area as a whole, with the location of first a mortuary enclosure and later an extensive round barrow cemetery, which contains some of the rarer classes of barrow, in particular bell barrows and saucer barrows. The various elements present on Windmill Hill represent fine examples of their class, with the causewayed enclosure and the saucer barrows being exceptional in the extent to which they remain visible as earthworks. All will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the development of the monument and the landscape in which it was used.
The monument includes a Neolithic causewayed enclosure, a small mortuary
enclosure, part of an early prehistoric field system and a group of eight
Bronze Age round barrows forming the core of a wider round barrow cemetery,
all situated on Windmill Hill, a prominent but low hill north-west of Avebury.
Until recently, the Neolithic causewayed enclosure and broadly contemporary
mortuary enclosure were thought to be the earliest evidence for human
occupation of the hilltop. Prior to this date, however, it would appear that
the hill was under cultivation. On the eastern side of Windmill Hill are a
series of slight earthworks which form the outlines of field boundaries and
enclosures. Recent survey work has suggested that this field system runs
beneath the enclosure and is therefore of earlier date.
The causewayed enclosure has a small circular area surrounded by three roughly
concentric rings comprising banks and ditches, centred just north and
downslope of the summit of Windmill Hill. The ditches are interrupted at
regular intervals by causeways, created as a result of the gang construction
method used to form the ditches and banks. The outer limits of the enclosure
form an oval ring aligned roughly south-west to north-east. The overall
dimensions of the enclosure are 400m by 300m at the widest points.
Numerous excavations of the causewayed enclosure, originally by Keiller, then
by Smith in the 1960s, and more recently by Whittle, have contributed much to
our understanding of the site. Finds have included Neolithic flint artefacts
such as arrowheads, axe-heads, a sickle blade and scrapers. Ceremonial chalk
cups, animal bones and skulls have also been found. A type of Neolithic
pottery found on sites across Wessex was first identified here and has taken
the name of the site. The enclosure was in use from about 3000 BC to around
Broadly contemporary with the causewayed enclosure, and situated to the east
and located immediately outside a causeway leading into the outer ring of
earthworks, is a mortuary enclosure. This was used for the exposure of human
corpses prior to their formal burial in mounds or chambered tombs such as
nearby West Kennet. Although not visible at ground level, it survives as a
rectangular enclosure 33.5m long by 22m wide defined by a buried ditch 0.3m
The history of burial at the site continued into the Bronze Age with the
location on the hilltop of the core of a round barrow cemetery. Eight of the
19 burial mounds which make up the Windmill Hill cemetery are located within
the monument and this includes three different types: bowl barrows, bell
barrows and saucer barrows. The individual barrows are described as follows:
(SU08597130) Bowl barrow 15m across and 0.3m high. Surrounding the mound is a
ditch from which material was quarried during construction of the monument.
This has become infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature
(SU08637135) Bowl barrow 19m across and 0.4m high. Surrounding the mound is a
ditch which survives as a buried feature c.3m wide.
(SU08677136) Bell barrow 22m across and 2.5m high. Surrounding the mound is a
berm or platform 3.5m wide, surrounded by a ditch 3.5m wide and 0.7m deep.
(SU08717140) Bowl barrow 30.5m across and 1.9m high. Surrounding the mound is
a ditch 4m wide and 0.3m deep.
(SU08887136) Bowl barrow 24m across and 2.3m high. Surrounding the mound is a
ditch which survives as a buried feature c.2.5m wide.
(SU08857142) Bowl barrow 24m across and 2.5m high. Surrounding the mound is an
interrupted quarry ditch up to 4m wide and 0.75m deep.
(SU08927143) Saucer barrow 9.8m across and 0.5m high. Surrounding the barrow
is a berm 4.5m wide, surrounded by a ditch 4.5m wide and 0.8m deep.
(SU08967146) Saucer barrow 15.2m across and 0.4m high. Surrounding the barrow
is a ditch 2.4m wide and 0.3m deep.
Excluded from the scheduling are the fences around the barrows as well as the
covered reservoir, although the ground beneath these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Smith, I, 'Wilts. Arch. and Natural History Magazine (1959)' in Excavations at Windmill Hill, Avebury, Wilts, 1957-58, , Vol. LVII, (1959), 149-62
scale 1:100, RCHM(E), Windmill Hill, (1989)
SU 07 SE 16, RCHM(E), Windmill Hill round barrow cemetery (SU 07 SE 16), (1976)
SU 07 SE 21, RCHM(E), Windmill Hill round barrow cemetery, (1976)
SU 07 SE 22, RCHM(E), Windmill Hill, (1973)
SU 07 SE 609, CAO, Bell barrow known as Picket Barrow., (1989)
SU07SE100, CAO, Windmill Hill Ceremonial Site, (1989)
SU07SE608, CAO, Round barrow on Windmill Hill, (1989)
SU07SE616, CAO, Bowl barrow on Windmill Hill (SU07SE616), (1989)
SU07SE617, CAO, Bowl barrow on Windmill Hill (SU07SE617), (1989)
SU07SE643, CAO, Square Enclosure, (1989)
SU07SE643: visible parchmarks, King, R, Discussion on site in 1989 between P Jeffery and R King, (1989)
SU07SE653, CAO, Windmill Hill Field System, (1991)
Title: SU 07 SE Source Date: 1979 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Scale 1:10000
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing