31/2012 - Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Avenue and Stonehenge Bottom
Analytical earthwork survey and investigation, by the former Archaeological Survey & Investigation team of EH, of the area to the north of Stonehenge revealed several zones of archaeological interest. Chief among these and well-known is the Avenue which, for the first part of its course, survives as an earthwork. When studied it is more substantial closer to Stonehenge than elsewhere. The lack of hollowing where the Avenue passes over a steep bluff at the ‘elbow’ is highlighted, raising the question of the degree to which the Avenue can ever have been a heavily used route, either for stone moving or processions.
And from the report itself:
...current theories on the purpose of the Avenue see it as a route for the transport of the bluestones from the River Avon or as a commemoration of that route, the argument being that the Avenue follows the easiest gradients from the river. This may be true for most of the route but at one crucial point,the ‘elbow’,it is not. A route a hundred metres or so further west here, utilising the dry valley which runs down from the current car park,would have avoided the steepest part of the low bluff;this, however, would not bring Stonehenge into view on the solstice alignment — it could be argued that the extra effort of bringing the stones up the bluff on that crucial alignment was part of the purpose. Another curiosity of the Avenue’s route up the bluff, however, is the lack of hollowing which we would expect at this point if it had been subjected to heavy traffic for any length of time. This lack of hollowing is clear both from surface observation for the current project and from the excavations. It is precisely on shoulders such as this that hollow ways first develop. This argues somewhat against the ‘elbow’ either as a route for the stones or as a well used procession route over any length of time. If processions did take place up this slope they either did not happen very often or did not involve many people....