World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.
On 18th April 1982 on the occasion of a symposium organised by ICOMOS in Tunisia, the holding of the “International Day for Monuments and Sites” to be celebrated simultaneously throughout the world was suggested. This project was approved by the Executive Committee who provided practical suggestions to the National Committees on how to organise this day.
The idea was also approved by the UNESCO General Conference who passed a resolution at its 22nd session in November 1983 recommending that Member States examine the possibility of declaring 18th April each year “International Monuments and Sites Day”. This has been traditionally called the World Heritage Day.
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
Stonehenge and Avebury, in Wiltshire, are among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. The two sanctuaries consist of circles of menhirs arranged in a pattern whose astronomical significance is still being explored. These holy places and the nearby Neolithic sites are an incomparable testimony to prehistoric times.
Stonehenge and Avebury form part of one of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The explanations behind why the sites are located where they are and what their exact purposes are still remain a mystery to this day.
Managed by English Heritage dates back approximately 5,000 years. Evolving between 3,000 and 1,600 BC, Stonehenge is aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices. The summer solstice in June often attracts up to 20,000 visitors to view the sunrise. When visiting Stonehenge pick up one of their audio guides (available in different languages) giving details of the history and legends behind the site. For a more intimate experience there’s an inner circle tour which takes place before and after the site is open to the general public (pre-booking is essential) or view tour companies who offer general and inner circle visits to the stones.
Around the Stonehenge landscape there are other sites of notable importance including Durrington Walls, the largest henge monument in Britain and Woodhenge, a Neolithic monument dating from around 2,300 BC.
The largest stone circle in the World, Avebury was erected around 4,500 years ago and consists of around 100 stones. Many of the stones were re-erected by Alexander Keiller in the 1930s.
The Alexander Keiller Museum in the village holds many of the archaeological finds that Keiller discovered during the excavations of Avebury during this time and the history of the excavations. Today Avebury is managed by the National Trust.
The site is open daily (due to its village location) and visitors can not only explore the stone circle but also the Avenue, the West Kennett Long Barrow and can look over at Silbury Hill – the largest man-made hill in Europe. Similarly to Stonehenge, Avebury is also plays host to both Winter and Summer Solstices.
In 2012, Avebury Manor opened its doors following the BBC TV programme ‘The Manor Reborn’ which also saw the kitchen garden transformed into a working Victorian kitchen garden.
See objects excavated from the World Heritage Site at Salisbury Museum and the new prehistory displays at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. Salisbury Museum has recently reopened its Wessex Gallery. The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes has new displays featuring gold from the Time of Stonehenge, including Britain’s richest Bronze Age burial.
Visit Wiltshire Website
“Celebrate it with a visit to Stonehenge or Avebury and observe a minute of silence for the ones we have lost to insensitive developments”
The Stonehenge News Blog