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In the early years of the 18th century, the general outline of the Avebury temple was still visible. Dr. William Stukeley, an antiquarian who frequently visited the site in the 1720's, watched in dismay as the local farmers, unaware of the cultural and archaeological value of the ancient temple, continued with its destruction. For over thirty years Stukeley made careful measurements and numerous drawings of the site, drawings that are today our only record of both the immense size and complexity of the ancient temple. Stukeley was the first observer in historical times to clearly recognize that the original ground plan of Avebury was a representation of the body of a serpent passing through a circle and thus forming a traditional alchemical symbol. The head and tail of the enormous snake were delineated by 50-foot wide avenues of standing stones, each extending 1 and 1/2 miles into the countryside. One of the avenues terminated at another stone ring known as the 'sanctuary'. Continuing his explorations and mapping of the countryside surrounding the stone serpent, Stukeley gathered evidence that the sacred complex of Avebury included many other massive earth and stone monuments.
Only 1500 meters south of the main Avebury rings stands Silbury Hill, the largest, and perhaps the most enigmatic, of all megalithic constructions in Europe. Crisscrossing the surrounding countryside are numerous meandering lines of standing stones and mysterious underground chambers, many positioned according to astronomical alignments. Perhaps the most astonishing revelations of Avebury's ancient grandeur have come through the recent research of John Michell, Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller. Drawing upon legends and folklore, archaeological excavations and dowsing, these specialists have determined that the Avebury temple was part of a vast network of neolithic sacred sites arranged along a nearly two-hundred mile line stretching all across southern England. Positioned directly on this line are the great pilgrimage sites of Glastonbury Tor and St.Michael's Mount. (For more information on this line and the sites along it, consult Hamish Miller's book, The Sun and the Serpent.)
The length of time for the main continuity of use of the Avebury complex throughout the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age was, according to present dating studies, around 2300 years. This lengthy span of time involved and the vast size of the whole complex give testimony to the fact that the Avebury temple was perhaps the most significant sacred site in all of Britain, if not the entire continent of Europe. And what of its use? Various conjectures have been made but it is premature to speak with any certainty. To fathom the mysteries of Avebury will take some years still. Only since the 1980's has there occurred the essential meeting of science and spirit, of archaeology and intuition that may unlock the secrets of this wondrous place.
The first Computer Museum in the country has opened in Swindon.
Sited on the Oakfield Campus of the University of Bath, the museum has been set up as a showcase of outside exhibits, although it does not own any collections itself.
The debut exhibition is on loan from the Bletchley Park Trust and includes a replica of the Enigma Machine.
The machine was used during the Second World War by German Forces and was thought to generate an unbreakable code, until British sailors retrieved one from a sinking U-boat.
This gave code breakers at the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park a key tool in deciphering Nazi naval communications.
Later in the year, a privately owned collection of home computers will be on display at the museum.
Jeremy Holt, of the British Computer Society, who is the driving force behind the museum said: "Swindon is a leading centre of the computer industry and it is fitting that the country's first museum dedicated to the industry should be established here. It is wonderful how much enthusiasm has been shown for the project by local companies, organisations and individuals."