Night Photography by David Baldwin



Avebury Project - Original Archaeological Discoveries I have made

My motivation in starting this Avebury project was artistic, not archaeological.    However, Avebury hasn't been photographed much at night, and it seems to me that night lights can reveal details in the stones which are much harder to see in the daytime.  Imagine my surprise then when I began to notice previously undiscovered features in my night photographs, particularly in relation to the faces in the stones.   I checked my books to confirm that what I had seen was not previously recorded or understood, and that I had therefore discovered something new.

In claiming discoveries I need to be careful.   Let me start by saying what details I haven't discovered for myself in this photo project:

A.   The commonly and easily recognised faces in the stones, for example the "shark" face on West Kennet Stone 35a, or the same Avenue's Stone 37b which is a horse.   Everyone can see those and many others like them!

B.   The many more subtle faces discovered by Professor Meaden (set out in his astonishing book on the Avebury stones, and on his web page) and by Dr Prendergast in her "Minerva" article.  If I photograph any details that I am aware were specifically discovered by either of these authorities I will expressly acknowledge this.

What have I discovered then in my photographs on this website?   Amongst other things:

1.   That the difficult to interpret Stone 50 of the henge's north-east quadrant is in fact a beautiful relief of a bull. I achieved this by finding the small and very elusive eye slit on the left hand side of the monolith, a finding made possible by using highly directional light at night:

2.   That the eye slit used on Stone 50 is a simple device also used to make a face on the famous Swindon/Diamond Stone:

3.   That in the henge's north-east quadrant the famous Cove Stone II and Stone 201 in fact represent the same Neolithic character:

4.   While I am sure I am not the first person to see the face on Stone 5, I am the first person to point out the two reasons it is such significant stone.   a)  Some archaeologists deny that the Avebury stones were sculpted at all, Stone 5 is therefore particularly important as it is without any doubt whatsoever a carving, clearly artificial.   Although it is a crude carving by Avebury standards, it does show how the ancestors set up raw sarsen stones, and then edited them to show characters.   b) Gruesomely I suggest that the stone may well represent a dead face in the process of excarnation, presumably by birds:

5.   How the sculptor of the north-east face of West Kennet Avenue's Stone 35a achieved his wonderful results:

6.    That many of the sculptures distinctively show only half a character's face, or the edge of a face apparently turned away from the viewer, leaving the missing/turned away portion enigmatic.
This is not an omission on the artists' part but a style, showing animated life in the process of emerging from the primordial background of the stones:


7.    That the star-gazer style of carving at Avebury derives from an original at West Kennet Long Barrow:


Furthermore I divide the star-gazers into two categories, those that stare straight up (the zenith-seekers) and those that appear to stare upwards but at an angle to the south where the celestial equator crosses the meridian (the equator-seekers).

Examples of zenith-seekers include West Kennet Long Barrow's Facade Stone 02, West Kennet Avenue's Stone 33b and the Henge's south-east quadrant Stone 01.   Examples of equator-seekers include West Kennet Avenue's Stones 29a, 33a and 35b.   The Avenue has an interesting possible variant or sub-variant of the normal equator-seeker - Stone 36a.   This monolith, when viewed from the east, appears to look in the expected southerly direction, but its distinctive crescent shaped face might suggest it was particularly intended to watch the culmination of the moon?

8.   I have discovered the existence of two zenith-gazing faces atop the southern face of Stone 1 of the south east quadrant.   I suggest that one face represents death in the form of a skull, and the other represents a living face.   This echoes symbolism others have found in carvings at West Kennet Long Barrow, symbols of the life/death cycle overseen by the Great Goddess:

9.   A wonderful trio of east looking faces on the Beckhampton Cove Stone, two of which constitute another dead face/living face pair consistent with point 8 above:

10.   A particularly beautiful stylized face on the last remaining stone of the Beckhampton Avenue.   To me this is easily one of the best faces at Avebury:

11.   That the Beckhampton Cove Stone contains recursive "faces within faces":

Now that I have recognized this device I am spotting examples of recursive faces all over Avebury.

12.    A highly significant giant east looking face on the south side of the Swindon Diamond Stone:


13.    A solemn and noble left-looking profile on Stone 10, in the south-western quadrant of the henge:


14.    I suggest that Stone 102 hosts a large image of a skull.   This eastward looking face could be seen to be concerned with death and rebirth, a dead head looking hopefully to the rising sun to create new life/resurrection?   As can be seen in point 19 below, I believe this side of the monolith also hosts a carving of a hare, a living fertility symbol, nicely balancing the skull symbol of death. Life and death contrasted:


15.    I have discovered an amazing zenith-seeking face on top of the famous Cove Stone II, proving that such star-gazing carvings were not just peripheral, limited to the Long Barrows and Avenues, but represent crucially important imagery deserving a place at the very heart of the main henge, central to the sky worshipping ceremonies that occurred there:


16.    Strange faint right profile faces on Stone 36a, West Kennet Avenue:

17.    A beautiful sculpture of an animal's face, at least 5600 years old at West Kennet Long Barrow:

18.    As well as documenting the existence of two different classes of human faced zenith-seeking statues (here) I have also identified a splendid animal faced zenith-seeker:

19.    I have discovered that Stone 102 and 103 represent Hares "walking" in a circle around the now vanished Obelisk stone: