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What is the Stonehenge Cursus?
The Stonehenge Cursus,also known as the Greater Cursus (there is another shorter one a few hundred yards to the NW known as the Lesser Cursus),runs for 1 3/4 miles or 3km E - W across the Stonehenge landscape just to the north of Stonehenge. It is a parallel set of banks and ditches about 100 - 150 m apart, with the ditch on the outside of the banks. From the base of the ditch to the top of the bank is around 5ft or 1.5m. At the western end the ditch was higher, and at the eastern end was a long barrow.
Why is it called the Cursus?
Cursus is the Latin name for racetrack or hippodrome. It was named by William Stukeley, an early antiquarian, in the early 1700's. He was the first person to identify and note it. As we all do, he wanted to explain its meaning and purpose. He had been on the Grand Tour of Europe and had seen the Circus Maximus in Rome and thought it was used for chariot racing. Not an unreasonable assumption given its shape and dimensions. To put it in context though, the Romans were in Britain about 2000 years ago, but the Cursus was built 3500 years before that!Some describe it as a landing strip for aliens, but its true use is ceremonial or ritual. That's archaeologists speak for 'we don't have a clue'.
Can I visit the Cursus?
All of the Cursus is on publicly accessible land owned by the National Trust. There is little visible on the ground except the south west quarter. The best way is to see it from air though the airspace is military and difficult to access. From Stonehenge you can see a set of barrows (burial mounds) to the northwest (off to the left as you look out at the landscape) running from left to right. Walk past the Cursus barrows and within a 100yds or so you will reach a ditch and bank. You're at the Cursus.
Are there any tours to the Cursus?
There is only one scheduled Stonehenge tour which includes the Cursus which you can find on our inner circle tour page.
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