On Avebury Generally

"A visit to Avebury is a very personal event. It still seems to retain, somehow, the spirits of all those who laboured in its creation .... If you have never been there a visit will not be an empty experience. You will come away with a head full of questions and probably a realisation that somewhere over the years modern society has lost something important."  ("Avebury - A Present From The Past" website here)


"Death and regeneration are the themes of Avebury.   The presence of human bones, the perforated stone discs, the red ochre, the pockets of fertile earth, the antlers, the shapes of the sarsens, the architecture of the avenues and circles, all are consistent with the belief that the sprawling metropolis of Avebury developed into a temple in which, at various times of the year, the scattered population of the countryside could gather to watch and take part in ceremonies of magic and evocation that would safeguard their lives".   (Aubrey Burl ~ "Prehistoric Avebury" 2nd Ed, Yale University Press)


" .... many are curiously attracted to the place.   While it is equally possible to visit somewhere with modern comforts, roofed over and with warmth, many feel compelled to travel to the area, often in the depth of winter, and procession like, circumnavigate and touch the stones at Avebury and then make their way to Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Long Barrow. This is as much a pilgrimage as for those who visit Lourdes.   The monuments serve a social and spiritual need. They provide a valuable link and connection with the distant past and with its roots.... Indeed, there is an inherent desire to meet and speak to our ancestors."   (Jim Leary and David Field ~ "The Story of Silbury Hill" 2010 English Heritage)


"The people who built and used Avebury would have seen the sky-alignments as an integral part of their experience of inhabiting a world of purposeful immanent powers.   For them, a life force pervaded plants, animals, humans, rivers, stones and place, as well as the cycles of the sun, moon and stars.   The builders would have carefully located and created any ceremonial site in such a way as to honour this 'Great Surround', its diverse inhabitants and powers. Such sites were places for rites of passage, prayers, offerings, appeals, thanksgiving and contrition.  While Avebury was many things to many generations of people, it seems obvious that its builders viewed it as the means of connection and communication between different worlds and states of being ....

.... Yet Avebury is so complex, and on such a scale, that it seems the intention of its builders was not to privilege any single story, any one divine power, or any one astronomical cycle or alignment, but rather to include everything within the structure's multiple dimensions.   The people who made the great henge intended it to make an inclusive and comprehensive statement about their relationship with the cosmos.   Although we will never understand all the implications of that statement, Neolithic Avebury must have been a storyteller's, shaman's and skywatcher's paradise."  (Nicholas Mann ~ "Avebury Cosmos" 2010)


"In the Western context, the primary measure of art is aesthetic.   In non-literate contexts, the primary motivation is didactic."   Lynne Kelly  ~ "The Memory Code", Atlantic Books 2016


"The whole of Neolithic Europe, to judge from surviving artifacts and myths, had a remarkably homogenous system of religious ideas based on the many titled Mother Goddess .... The Great Goddess was regarded as immortal, changeless, omnipotent."   Robert Graves


"Avebury alone, after nightfall, when the henge and stones turn to blackened silhouettes is a dark and mysterious place. With your back to the village you can probably come as close as you’re likely to find to time travel."  Todd Atteberry


"On a still moonlit night Avebury seems peopled by ghosts, and the old church and cottages of the village seem new and insignificant." (John Betjeman)


"The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend."  Evelyn Waugh  "Brideshead Revisited"

 


 

On The Existence Of Faces On The Avebury Stones - A Controversy!

"Visitors who spend any time at Avebury, particularly if they walk around the henge and West Kennet Avenue at various times of the day and at different seasons, catching all casts of light, will be forcibly struck by the shapes and forms of some of the stones.   A lion's head here, a horse's head there; a face staring skywards; a weathered and venerable face peering out; a mother and child..... There are also gnarled stones that provide convincing representations of various parts of the body..... 

Of course, one has to be careful.   I sometimes receive photographs of the Avebury stones which some enthusiast has marked in pen for me ..... While I would by no means automatically dismiss all of these, most clearly result from what could be described as a megalithic version of the Inkblot or Rorshach Test - a mental projection onto accidental, ambiguous shapes.   Such shapes are called simulacra - unintentional, natural forms that people simply read things into, like faces in clouds ..... But while images in the Avebury stones are simulacra in the sense that they have not been formed by human design, some may have been recognised by human intent....

If we can see these shapes now, could not the megalithic builders have seen them too, and perhaps more readily than we can?   Perhaps certain stones were selected specifically for their imaging effects; there could be a whole pantheon of Neolithic gods standing grey at Avebury if we would but see them."   (Paul Devereux ~ "Symbolic Landscapes" 1992 Gothic Image Publications)

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"Let's pause for a moment and consider the subtlety and craftmanship of the numerous carvings .... Many of the heads and profiles rely on strong sunshine at the right time of day.   Some are affected by the seasons as well. Often a slight hollow, meaningless until then, is transformed by the moving rays of the low or high sun into a skilfully executed eye, mouth or ear - a careful feat of sculpture sometimes achieved by limited pecking with a hard-stone tool.   

As far as possible the sculptors took advantage of accidental forms which suggested images in the eye of the beholder. In that sense it may be called opportunistic art.    The Avebury people could conjour shapes into heads and figures as well as we can.   They would have believed that the images in the stones were as much a divine gift as were the sarsens. Sometimes no further work was needed; on others the widening of a crack or the addition of a line or hollow was enough to animate the stone.   Sometimes the result was like a cariacature, but often the work led to an acceptable rendering of a human image.

There seems to have been no wish to seek reality in the more fastidious Mediterranean Neolithic tradition.   If this had been so, the ingenious handiwork would have been so obvious that it would have been common knowledge long ago. Instead, the aim was to create forms and figures, heads and profiles, which were so slight and usually so dependent on the sun that only those in the know would be aware of their presence.   Stonemasons, priests, priestesses and acolytes would learn the secrets, possibly as part of rites and the telling of epic stories and tribal myths."   (Terence Meaden ~ "The Secrets Of The Avebury Stones" 1999 Souvenir Press)

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"Given the almost intractable nature of sarsen and the fact that the majority of large blocks had been at least half-buried when men came for them it is difficult to believe that the boulders were specifically chosen for their human likenesses.   The features were very probably fortuitous.   Even the writer has observed some similarities, often after a glass or two of Wadworth's 6X ."   (Aubrey Burl ~ "Prehistoric Avebury" 2nd Ed, Yale University Press)