Stone 2, Facade, West Kennet Long Barrow  - (November 2018)         

Explanatory Materials Appear Below This Image - Please Scroll Down To View


The Faces On Stone 2

It seems to me that Stone 2 has at least two identities, firstly as Avebury's first zenith-seeking human face, and secondly as an animal portrait, a beast looking up broadly to the northern sky.   This stone is crucial to understanding the development of the Avebury sculptural style in that it clearly manages to display two or more different faces at once.   This approach can be seen again, and again all over Avebury, a tradition that guided the chisels and mauls of the prehistoric artists for many hundreds of years.

!. The Zenith-seeker

This fascinating stone includes a distinctive upward looking face with flattened features and hollowed out eyesocket.  Its inclusion as part of the foundational West Kennet Long Barrow, and its unusually weathered appearance, suggest that it is particularly old, perhaps venerated before the barrow was even begun - perhaps dragged to the site from another location?   In any case, the motif of the zenith-seeker was picked up and repeated at different sites, times and scales by both the Windmill Hill people who founded Avebury, and the Beaker People who eventually completed it - please see here for a more detailed explanation.  For now here is a small graphic quickly demonstrating the similarity between Stone 2 and an example of its larger descendent from the West Kennet Avenue, both faces have been rotated 90 degrees for easier comparison:


2. The Portait Of An Animal- Possibly A Sheep


Looking closely at the animal face in daytime, it appears to me that the mouth is a natural fold in the rock, whereas the eye has clearly been chiselled out in the distant past. This represents the typical Avebury approach to creating sculpture A) find a sarsen with distinctive and suggestive natural shapes then B) minimally edit the stone to complete the face.   This process allowed the neolithic artists to create striking monumental art without the need to extensively edit the sarsens which is incredibly diffcult to work. Understanding this labour saving approach exorcises the spurious yet sadly influential opinions of some academic commentators that the stones were too hard for any faces to have been carved into them.   Inspite of the plain evidence of our eyes to the contrary!   Dispelling such nonsense is partly what my Avebury photography is designed to achieve.

Like the zenith-seeker, this animal face was referenced in the later Avebury Henge complex, in this case more subtly atop Stone 7 - click here.


Image copyright David Baldwin Night Photography