Night Photography by David Baldwin




Avebury's Equator-Seeking Carved Faces

In the West Kennet Avenue there are many stones carved with faces gazing up into the southern sky, perhaps focussing on the part of the sky where the meridian meets the celestial equator?   I call these stones "equator-seekers". Here are some examples with the approximate direction of gaze to the south shown by arrows, please click on each thumbnail if you wish to view a larger version:





What are these statues 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.   These faces appear 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 large, rough statues 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? It might be seen that the equator-seeker on Stone 36a displays a distinctly "man in the moon" face (visible here), so this stone may be a lunar-gazer.

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 carved monoliths are 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 Avebury, 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 statues here in the West Kennet Avenue are 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.

The General Orientations Of The Avenue Carved Faces

The various faces in the Avenue mostly display definite stances, they tend to be carved to look in specific directions. This webpage is concerned with those carvings looking up into the sourthern sky, but there are other Avenue carvings. some looking up to the zenith (click here) and others looking up and down the Avenue, as if to watch approaching and departing processions of worshippers.

Taking these specific orientations into account, it is very striking that there do not appear to be any Avenue faces looking up into the northern sky, these were not part of the neolithic scheme intended at Avebury:

Above: Diagram showing the predominant aspects of the West Kennet Avenue statues