Star Gazer Statue At West Kennet Long Barrow
It appears to me that stone 2 of the facade to West Kennet Long Barrow is a "star-gazer", a sculpted horizontal sarsen face turned up to observe the heavens. I include here two separate views of the profile with the features labelled. I cannot find any confirmation of my supposition in the limited number of books I have access to, but to me the resemblance appears striking. The Barrow stone's profile appears very similar to the image on page 93 of Terence Meadens's 1999 book "The Secrets Of The Avebury Stones" where he identifies stone 33b of the West Kennet Avenue as a star-gazer. Perhaps his statue in the Avenue is a copy of an older original at the Barrow?
Stone 45 of the Facade and the Female "Yoni" Symbol
This famous mark was carved (with great effort) into the large Stone 45 blocking the Barrow's entrance. This blocking stone was added years after the Barrow's foundation, but still in neolithic times. The mark effectively tells us that the neolithic people saw the Barrow as a representation of the body of their Goddess. She was the Earth Mother charged with the creative cycles of nature and farming. More specifically at West Kennet Long Barrow she ensured the rebirth of her human children whose bones were placed in the chambers of her womb/tomb. Presumably this rebirth was facilitated originally by the sun's rising light striking deep into the depths of the Barrow's Chambers, the sacred moment of re-conception. Once the Barrow was closed by the erection of Stone 45 this fertilization by the sacred light became impossible, and it seems the Barrow's religious function was taken over by the main Avebury complex and central Cove to the north.
As Burl says, death and regeneration are the themes of Avebury, and here at the West Kennet Long Barrow you can see this obsession made architecture.
(I first learned about the barrow's womb and yoni imagery from Peter Knight's book "West Kennet Long Barrow - Landscape, Shamans and the Cosmos" Stone Seeker Publishing 2011). Knight refers to Professor Meaden's highly significant work on Avebury.
The Neolithic Mindset And Its Influence On Later Religions
I visited West Kennet Long Barrow with an open mind, expecting it to be totally alien to me. Instead I found it strangely familiar, churchlike in fact. Both the barrow and many churches:
1. were built to house the honoured dead
Bearing in mind the above, it is amazing to consider that West Kennet Long Barrow was sealed up and abandoned 30 centuries before the invention of Christianity. The beliefs of prehistoric peoples were clearly absorbed and recycled into the subsequent Christian religion. Monuments like the barrow make it clear that the concerns, practices and institutions of the Neolithic still inform our world.
Image copyright David Baldwin Night Photography