Night Photography by David Baldwin



Beaked Faces At Avebury - Principally The Cove Stone I Face


The famous Cove Stone I and Stone 10 of the south-west quadrant both show eerie pointed faces, with definite eyes, horns and a prominent pointy nose. Do these represent the same god? If the stones of Avebury were host to several of these distinctive heads that might explain why Christian vandalism of the Avebury monoliths during the middle ages was so ferocious (see Burl pp 32-34 for a broad account of this religious devastation). It might also explain why the Devil's name was ignorantly applied to more than one local neolithic monument, for example the so-called Devil's Den, and the Devil's Chair.

Figure 1 below shows an enhanced view of the face on the Cove Stone (the photo is taken from a series I took in 2017, an example of which can be seen here -the photograph shown at the top of that page gives you a clearer idea of how the face appears to the visitor). The location of the artwork on the pivotal Cove stone and the exceptional quality of its carving proves its profound significance to the neolithic people. This is a foundational image for its worshippers, make no mistake about that.

Figure 2 below shows the left looking profile on Stone 10 (which can be seen in more detail here).

figure 1 (above)

figure 2 (above)

Simplified Forms Of The Cove Stone I Face

After some reflection it struck me that portraits of the Cove Stone I character were in fact reproduced at varying scales all over Avebury, created in a simplified style retaining the angular face but omitting the horns. Perhaps this omission was intended to reduce the amount of carving required, or to allow the use of less broad sarsens, or to show that these subsidiary carvings were not intended to compete with the most sacred Cove iteration. Perhaps the missing horns on these subsidiary works were "understood" to be part of the depicted god's nature, missing or aerial body parts implied by the worshipper's knowledge of neolithic tradition/folklore.

A good example of this simplied depiction of the Cove Stone I face would be that carved on top of the Avenue's Stone 25b (see figure 3 below, click on the thumbnail to see a larger version).

figure 3 (above)

Another example is atop Stone 13b of the West Kennet Avenue, shown in figure 4 below, click on the thumbnail to see larger:

 figure 4 (above)

Yet another example, this time from the corner of the famous Swindon Diamond Stone, again click the thumbnail so see a larger version. Notice the simply carved slot eye:

 figure 5 (above)

Stone 13a of the West Kennet Avenue offers a particularly haunting beaked profile:

 figure 6 (above)

Stone 13b of the West Kennet Avenue offers another great example:

figure 7 (above)