Lithic Mysteries: CASE Invades Stonehenge

The Cove

The Cove

A fantastically cold and windy February day is an ideal introduction to the lost world of our ancestors. The cold, beige coloured landscape dotted with trees, the rolling chalk hills hiding the neolithic M4 of the “Ridgeway”, hedge-less fields giving a timeless impression as one approaches the wonderful site of Avebury.

Its stone circle and avenue of standing stones was erected here sometime between 2900 to 2600 BC making the site older than Stonehenge – and in many respects much grander.

Although Avebury has undergone many changes in the ensuing years, the stone circles, huge banks and ditches, the horizon dotted with the grave-barrows of its builders, still retains its awe and mystery. It is a whodunit that challenges the visitor. Who built this place? What was its function? Are anthropological interpretations like sky fathers and earth mothers, ancestor worship or druidic rituals of any help in appreciating this place?

Not really. Avebury is a place to be experienced but not understood. We are so far removed from these people by time and culture that any interpretation is bound to be more a reflection of our insights rather than theirs.

Nevertheless, we were assisted in our quest for understanding by “Terry the Druid”, a colourful figure who wove fantastic tales interspersed by fact, half truths and interpretations pertaining to his understanding of the magic in this landscape. Starting at the West Kennet long barrow (built 3600BC) we climbed over the blocking stones to examine the five ossuaries inside it before walking into the biting wind over the downs to the West Kennet avenue, to trudge up between the stones re-erected by Alexander Keiller in the 20th century.

This fact did not detract from the feeling that this walkway was used by Neolithic peoples on some ceremonial migration to the Avebury circle, bent on some ritual which is now lost in time. Neither did the sight of 40 people in modern clothes subtract from the inscrutability of the avenue and its leading line into the heart of the Avebury circle itself.

The standing stones of the great circle, the cove, the smaller North and South circles, the phallic interpretations and the femininity of some stones were all examined in turn by cold but fascinated students who repaired to the pub as soon as was politic to talk over the events of the day and discuss the varied meaning of their experience.

Stonehenge in comparison was a great disappointment – no magic, no energy, no experience – merely sheer commercialism and facts kept just at arms-length.

Students at West Kennet Long Barrow

All enjoyed a fantastic field trip of imagination, significance, awe and perception with no solid answers but thousands of questions and an abiding yet ethereal connection with our lost ancestors

written by Martin Griffiths



2 comments


    Rob Miller

    February 22, 2006

    We are so far removed from these people by time and culture that any interpretation is bound to be more a reflection of our insights rather than theirs.

    My thoughts exactly. This trip emphasised to me how used we are to being presented with interpretations, aerial views and CGI reconstructions. It is very different when one is in the field with only the raw data of objects and landscape to go on.

    By coincidence I had been re-reading The Dark is Rising a classic fantasy story that draws heavily on the folklore of the Thames Valley – another region where much evidence of ancient habitation and land use has been discovered – which put me in an excellent frame of mind for this trip.

    Stonehenge in comparison was a great disappointment ??????? no magic, no energy, no experience ??????? merely sheer commercialism and facts kept just at arms-length.

    Being able to walk through the landscape at Avebury gives one a greater appreciation of the settings of the ancient sites and the relationship of ceremonial sites to habitations. By comparison, Stonehenge is just another stop on a tourist coach tour.

    Celestial Elf

    September 11, 2011

    For those who are interested in returning the Stonehenge Ancestors,
    I am sharing my new machinima film
    Stonehenge Is Our Temple
    Please sign the e-petition in link below film and share the film so others will get the message, thank you ~
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlPHNuQTCjE

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