Stone 29a, West Kennet Avenue (October 2016)         

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Several of the monoliths in the West Kennet Avenue appear to me to represent faces uplifted to watch the southern skies, perhaps focussing on the part of the sky where the meridian meets the celestial equator?   I call these stones "equator-seekers".    Stone 29a here is one example.   The leftward looking face is turned to the south with a lifted chin, straining forever to look upwards.

What is it watching for?  In the daytime or at night?  In the summer, autumn, winter or spring? We will never know for certain, but I can speculate on some obvious candidates:

A wide range of celestial objects to the south

This might include the brighter planets, stars, Milky Way and even meteors.   The face appears well aligned to the celestial equator where it reaches its highest position in the south, this is a region full of interest during the course of a year.   It is important to point out though that such a large, rounded statue might only be said to point to a broad area of sky, and therefore cannot unambiguously be used as a precision sight to a particular celestial object. Sadly.    There are of course a wide number of possible astronomical objects sought by the "equator-seekers" but some particularly obvious candidates would be:

1.   The Sun and Moon

The Avebury people clearly followed the 6 month journey of the sun from solstice to solstice, from equinox to equinox.   They also traced out the phases and path of the moon.   Perhaps this stone was set to watch the culminations of sun and moon high to the south?

2.   Orion

Early cultures all over the world venerated Orion, it has even been suggested that the ancient Egyptians laid out the Giza pyramids in a characteristic crooked linear pattern to mimic his main three belt stars. Similar impulses can be seen in the British Neolithic, for instance at Thornborough, Yorkshire, where our ancestors laid out a giant earth monument embodying three linked henges. Perhaps our watcher stone is staring at Orion?  It is hard for me to believe that the Avebury people could have omitted the stars we call Orion from their mythology, and I can personally testify that the constellation dominates the Wiltshire winter skyscape high to the south with breathtaking and awe inspring effect.

I have developed a specific theory linking Orion and Averbury, click here for details

3.   Taurus

Neolithic people had an widespread obsession with bulls and bull imagery. I have personally discovered that there is a relief of a bull here at Avebury (Stone 50, North-east Quadrant) and others have suggested that the stones at Stonehenge portray aerial images of bulls heads. Perhaps our lithic friend here in the West Kennet Avenue is watching for the Hyades (The V shaped head of what we call the constellation Taurus the Bull), with fiery Aldebaran marking the bullseye.

4.   Corona Borealis

Burl refers (p168-9) to Aubrey's 1663 description of a now destroyed horse shoe shaped ring of stones at Avebury, a shape reminiscent of the constellation we know as Corona Borealis. Perhaps this indicates the constellation had a particular importance during the neolithic, and was possibly of interest to our "equator-seeking" stones.

 

 

 

 

Image copyright David Baldwin Night Photography