Marked on 17th century maps as "Ambersbury", it has been suggested that it was so named after Ambrosius Aurelianus, leader of the Romano-British resistance against the Saxon invasions in the 5th century. Amesbury is also associated with the Arthurian legend: the nunnery to which Guinevere retired was said to have been the one at Amesbury.
One mile to the west of the town is a concealed Iron Age hill fort, now overgrown by woods. This is known locally as "Vespasian's Camp" (after the Roman general, later Emperor, who campaigned through this part of the island). It has never been excavated.
In 2002, the discovery of the richest Bronze Age burial site yet found in Britain was made at Amesbury. The remains of two men of apparently aristocratic rank were accompanied by over 100 objects including arrowheads, copper knives and gold earrings. The occupant of the more richly furnished grave has become known as the "Amesbury Archer".