PICTURE 1. Avebury's Cove 2009. This photo proves the cove in the middle of Avebury's northern circle to aim midway between the summer solstice and the northernmost rising moon - known as the 'Major Lunar Standstill' - conveniently marked by the druid.
BEWARE OF IMITATION. Imitations are out there! Take this photo with the camera in a different position and it might well look just as good, but it will prove nothing!
A full report on Avebury's two cove's are given later.
AVEBURY. Why should anyone go to the trouble of scouring out a pure white 400-metre-diameter, 20-foot deep ditch and surround it with a high bank to make a henge, and then place 160 massive standing-stones inside it? And why set the outer stones in a pattern based on the simplest of Pythagorean triangles? And why connect the henge to a small circle some 2.5 kilometres away and relate the two with the function Pi?
And this is before we even start to consider the parts the sun, moon and stars play in this superb piece of prehistoric theatre!
I took an interest in what was going on in prehistoric Wiltshire when surfing the Internet and became amazed to discover that some early folk had raised a 130-feet high hill, or mound, with little more than their bare hands. One of my work colleagues had visited this phenomenon while on a day’s outing from London, when he also climbed up it - something we are not allowed to do today. He also visited the equally impressive, quarter-mile-diameter Avebury henge, less than half a mile to the north of this stunning structure. I just had to visit this mystery mound and its neighbouring henge - the purpose, or purposes of which, no one, including archaeologists, could seem to solve. Or so they say!
And so it came about that on a particularly fine summer’s day in 2001, that I set out with my dad, - who complained the whole way why anyone should want to visit such old relics - to look for clues that provoked Avebury's early inhabitants into going to so much trouble. Only the very biggest of motives would do.
So, there we were, dad and I, looking up at the largest man-made mound in Europe and wondering what it was all about. This mound is big, and its purpose was equally big. I felt very much challenged, to say the least: no bunch of half-shod barbarians was going to get the better of me: I wasn't brought up to give in so easily.
2. Silbury Hill. The position of the ditch as shown, gives an idea of the original ground level and how much surrounding chalk was used in its construction. So much chalk, that in a wet season, Silbury Hill often stands in its own lake. This had to be purposeful.
Built over a 250-year span and finished by 2400 BC - 100-years after Stonehenge was built. Obviously then, Silbury Hill took over the reins from Stonehenge. Now, I don't wish to get too tangled up with Stonehenge at this point in time, because this site is essentially about Avebury. But it's certain fact that by the time this enigmatic hill was finished, Stonehenge had been largely abandoned as a failure. And, whether or not Stonehenge was ever completed, some of its stones were likely made into easily transportable pieces to be placed inside Silbury Hill as dedications.
To quote Magnus Magnusson... 'The sarsen stones inside Silbury Hill are like currants in a cake.' Also, some bluestone fragments were found near the top of the mound by Professor Atkinson. These bluestones probably came from Stonehenge too. They went missing for a while, and were considered lost, but were later found buried in the archives of Avebury's museum.
Despite coal miners drilling a vertical shaft from top to bottom into Silbury, and numerous ground-level tunnels dug through to its centre, we will never learn much of what went on at ground level without removing the top half of the mound. But that will never happen. Nor should it. There's a £100 book available that covers everything about what archaeologists found when Atkinson's tunnel was reopened for repairs. But the book does not tell you why Silbury was built!
No matter; Silbury, brought to its full height, tells all we need to know.
Silbury Hill: A mound in 3D. The platform on top measures 36 megalithic yards, as does Stonehenge. So it's not difficult to imagine Stonehenge placed on top like some glorious crown. The nine triangles that travel down its sides might appear like sunrays radiating out from an imaginary Stonehenge, but we will prove those triangles to represent growth. So let's crack on with Avebury and its associated monuments...
After spending twenty minutes or so viewing Silbury Hill and taking several photographs of it, we returned to our car and drove the short distance to take a look at the henge at Avebury. Easily large enough to hold a village and a pub, some shops, several dwellings, and a small chapel at its centre, I was immediately stunned by the enormity of it all. This so-called “Super henge,” a quarter of a mile across, contains standing stones - otherwise known as 'orthostats or monoliths' that are even larger than those at Stonehenge itself. Something massively big had been going on here - and for an equally big reason. I determined there and then, to find out exactly what that reason was!
Although dad was normally tee-total, he waited with a half of shandy in the car park of the Red Lion public house while I investigated the henge. When at last I returned to the pub, I said to dad that I reckoned Stone Age people had been trying to catch the Sun.
And so started my quest to prove it.
Dad and I next paid a visit to the Alexander Keiller museum to see the exhibits and to purchase some books so I could study these things later and in the quiet of my own home. From those books I learned that the egg-shaped monument on top of Windmill Hill was the first to be built. And because it overlooks both Silbury and Avebury; it seemed like a good place for me to start.
3. The Avebury Landscape. My model of Avebury and its surrounding monuments, should help you to find your way around.
And so it was that a couple of weeks later, and after purchasing a second-hand single-lens-reflex-camera, that I could be seen heading back to Avebury in the middle of the night to see what all the fuss was about. I was totally convinced that I could solve these age-old mysteries.
Never having been to Windmill Hill before, and without knowing exactly how to get there, and in the middle of the night, to-boot…I duly set out from home. I knew I would have to go up a dark country lane which leads on to a dirt track that would eventually peter out; and there I parked my car.
It was pitch black when I arrived and I was in the middle of nowhere. I thought perhaps I should wait for the sky to lighten up a tad before walking the rest of the way, but that would only defeat the object. Exiting the car and closing the door as quietly as possible, I somehow managed to summon enough courage to set off up that spooky track. After all; should anyone or anything jump out at me, I could always give them, or it, a hefty whack with my torch.
Having parked my car on what was likely to be someone's prohibited land, I didn't want to flash my torch for longer than necessary to ensure my safe footing. Then, suddenly, I saw a flash of light coming from some distance up-ahead - did I imagine it? - surely not. Am I heading into danger of some kind? I walked on. There it was again. This time I was sure the light was coming from another torch. Too late to turn back now, I had no choice but to see just what it was that I was walking into.
As I approached still closer I could see that several large vehicles had parked farther up the track than me, and that I was rapidly entering a “New Age traveller’s camp” who thought me a colleague who had come to join them. Why on earth they were still awake at four o'clock in the morning I shall never know; but I bade them good morning and asked for directions. A young lady, rising from the fire that kept the group warm, pointed to a gated bridleway and explained that I didn’t have much farther to go. ‘It’s up there,' she said, 'through the gate and at the top of the rise.'
to be continued.
4. Windmill Hill, a popular place to be 5,350 years ago is seen framed by the "Longstone's" Adam and Eve.
The archaeologist and author, Aubrey Burl, believes that the Cove stones were sexed… “Adam like Eve, surely wrongly sexed, was the eastern side-slab of a south-west facing cove.” A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, by Aubrey Burl. p 86.
Furthermore, there's a whole host of enthusiasts and professionals who believe the same thing. Professor Piggott, Alexander Keiller (the Marmalade millionaire), Dr Terence Meaden, Professor John North and me, to name but a few. So, the slim pillar seen on the right, ought to be called Adam and the bulbous pillar on the left, ought to be called Eve. But it's too late to rename them now.
The lozenge shaped-stone, wrongly-named Adam, like Burl says, was one of a pair of side-slabs forming the Beckhampton Cove. Adam fell many years ago and was restored to the vertical by Maud Cunnington when she discovered beaker pottery and a burial at its base. The Beckhampton Cove once consisted of four stones, three of which opened to the southeast, not the southwest as Burl incorrectly wrote.
Fact: The Beckhampton Cove was a female device because it was made of female-type monoliths (standing stones).
This website comes in sections like chapters in a book, so when a section becomes full, it will not accept more pictures, diagrams and text. Since this section is already full, my investigations into the Beckhampton Cove has been pushed back to the very end of this site. This is extremely unfortunate because the results are stunning. Patience required.
Windmill Hill. The 350-metre causewayed enclosure on top of Windmill Hill, dated around 3,350 BC, poses archaeologists as much a mystery as does Avebury and Silbury Hill, or so they say, because although it appears to have been an encampment of some kind, early folk are known to have never lived permanently upon it.
Archaeologists believe that Neolithic people occupied this hill during the summer months only, and then perhaps for nothing more than butchery, so all sorts of theories have been advanced for its possible use - none of which are very convincing.
Causewayed enclosures and long barrows are among the earliest monuments of all, their perimeters marked out by several rings of discontinuous ditches and banks that someone once described as being like a string of badly-made sausages. Well, Windmill Hill is not a sausage, but is likely to be initially based on an egg. It is, however, very unfortunate that other causewayed enclosures are not egg-shaped at all; although some of them are; but their varied outlines allow for any number of disagreements about their true purpose.
What we do know about Windmill Hill is that many things were placed on the bottom of its two-metre-deep ditches. These “things” ranged from stones brought from a quarry near to the town of Bath, (Limestone, no doubt) and other stones coming from as far away as Cornwall - as well as small chips of - surprise, surprise - the famous Stonehenge bluestones having come all the way from West Wales. Its builders may even have brought the honey-coloured Grand Pressigny flint from France.
Besides these exotic stones, animal and human body-parts were also found at the bottom of its ditches, together with the possible sacrifice of two children - not that it’s accepted as fact, mind you. One child was found on a raised plinth that raised its tiny body off the bottom of the ditch, and he or she was probably buried for the same purpose or reason as the single burials found at Avebury’s Sanctuary and Woodhenge (near Stonehenge).
This truly eclectic mixture of creature and human remains, exotic stones, flint arrow-heads, axes and broken pottery sherds, was clearly trying to instil the massive geometric egg on top of Windmill Hill with life. For myself, though, I wanted to look south from this enclosure as people of the Neolithic did, to see just what it was that they saw in the place.
Dawn hadn't yet broke when I arrived on top of Windmill Hill, and this gave me time to look around. I have to say that it didn’t look much like the photographs Cambridge University had taken of it from the air, and the Bronze Age burial mounds, known as ‘round barrows,’ came as a complete surprise since I hadn't expected them to be there. Even more surprising was a tent pitched hidden from view between two of the barrows by someone who advertised with a banner to have travelled all the way from somewhere inside Europe to get there - Bavaria I think - if my memory serves me correctly.
Although the Summer Solstice had passed by some weeks ago, I had come to Windmill Hill to watch the sunrise in the hope that I too might see what Stone Age people had seen in the place. I stood irreverently on top of the largest round barrow and looked towards the south. I hadn't chosen a very good day, but suddenly, there she was, ‘The Lady Silhouette.’
5. The 'Lady Silhouette seen from the top of Windmill Hill
This, I thought, was it: this was the way in which Stone Age men and women had tried to catch the sun…a giant image of a woman lying down, formed by the combination of Waden and Silbury Hill together. Obviously, or so I thought, those early guys and gals had built a female breast to go with the Waden Hill belly. I was sure that I had cracked the mystery; so sure, in fact, that I just had to write a story about it. I didn't know it at the time, but this beautiful idea was to become just one further theory that I would eventually come to drop.
Besides which, I was looking in the wrong direction!
6. Windmill Hill's outer circuit as a vast Geometric exercise.
Unless otherwise stated, all dimensions on this site and its sister site, Stonehengeology.com, are in Professor Alexander Thom's megalithic yards. One megalithic yard has been shown to equal 0.83 of todays metres.
No wonder Windmill Hill was such a popular place to be 5,300 years ago; people used it as a vast experiment in geometry and mensuration. This geometry would one day lead to the setting out of Avebury's outer ring of some 90-plus orthostats. Note how by doubling in size at each step, these circles suggest growth.
7. Windmill Hill Geometry, Ring B.
Ring B appears to be composed of at least four 187.5 arcs from four 375 diameter circles. 375 times 4 gives 1500, again equalling Avebury's largest diameter.
8. Cherhill Hill, seen from Windmill Hill. Part of a round barrow and its ditch can also be seen in this picture.
If Windmill Hill's two outer circuits can be thought of as based on egg-shapes with axes passing centrally through them, then the monument used the distant ridge of Cherhill Hill to track the comings of the winter solstice sun.
9. Avebury Henge. This CAD version of the Avebury Henge, which I produced some years ago, is the best I can do to show you what the Avebury Henge looked like when new. The whole complex is about a quarter of a mile in diameter. The internal ditch, some 20 feet deep, followed the contours of Avebury's outer circuit of standing stones. Some stones of the outer ring were found to be held in place by having lower chalk rammed hard against their bases. We don't know where this lower chalk came from, but it wasn't from the bottom of Avebury's ditch. That was far to easy and out of character for people of the Stone Age, who collected stuff from miles away. And the further the better!
My CAD view of Avebury looks roughly east, so the south causeway is on the left of the picture. This causeway is an exit, not an entrance. The double row of stones known as the West Kennet Avenue can be seen leaving the henge via this exit causeway. The WKA is on its way to the Sanctuary.
The Beckhampton Avenue of paired stones that William Stukeley noted in 1720, can be seen entering the henge through the east causeway. This causeway is an entrance, not an exit. The existence of the Beckhampton Avenue was disputed and argued over for many years before it was finally proven.
While we are on the subject of entrance and exit causeways, it's worth mentioning that Avebury's causeway's obey the Stone Age rule of 10's by being rotated 20-degrees anticlockwise from the cardinal points north, east, south and west.
The inner circle on the left of the CAD image is known as the Southern Circle. Alexander Thom claimed this circle to measure 125 megalithic yards diameter; as well it might do if measured through the centre of the stones. However, since the best faces of its stones point inwards, the Southern Circle should actually be measured internally at 123MY.
The stone setting inside the Southern Circle has always been known as the Z-feature, but recent work on the Z feature suggests it to be a rectangle. I am not privy to this work and must wait for further information about it.
The inner circle seen on the right, is actually egg-shaped. Stukeley called this egg a Lunar Temple. Today it's known as the Northern Circle. Avebury's Cove stands in the middle of this egg.
The causeway on the right leads to Swindon. The causeway seen in the foreground, leads to the Marlborough Downs and from where early folk fetched their treasured sarsen stones.
10 and 11. The previously undiscovered founding geometry of Avebury's outer ring of stone orthostats.
Stage 1 Draw a 3:4:5 Pythagorean triangle A, B, C as seen on the left above, and make it 75 by 100 by 125 megalithic yards. From a point 15 over and 42 up from corner A, construct a second 3:4:5 Pythagorean triangle, but this time make it 10-times size at 30, 40 and 50MY. We will cast a 250MY radius from corner F of this second triangle - but hold on a moment…
Stage 2 We hold back because we can add a third 3:4:5 Pythagorean triangle as further support when casting our 250 radius. This third triangle is 11.333-times-size 3:4:5, and has sides of 34, 45.333 and 56.666 reoccurring.
The shear simplicity of this geometry, founded on a family of three of the most basic of Pythagorean triangles, made early folk think they had discovered something of immense importance and became sufficient reason for basing Avebury upon it. We also note how several more 3:4:5 triangles can be added to this design, but such extras are really not needed.
Fact: Avebury, like Stonehenge, is an internal device. So, if you heard it any other way, then you heard wrong.
12. Avebury Stage 3. We now cast a 250 radius from point F. We also take the opportunity to throw Professor Thom’s 200-radius circle from our point D. (It's a mere tenth of a megalithic yard different from Thom's). Only a portion of these arcs are needed and shown.
A temporary section of Thom's 200MY arc is shown doted. This has been allowed to remain for clarity and will be removed in the next stage.
13. Avebury Stage 4. Avebury folk then threw a 750 radius from a post 550 megalithic yards from D. Well, that’s the theory! Perhaps this 750 radius was prototyped on top of Windmill Hill, as we suggested above, but perhaps it was somewhere else? Maybe some of that scaled-down geometry lies buried beneath Silbury Hill.
But the question is, how did early folk produce such a large 750 radius arc using only wooden pegs and stretchy ropes?
14 (left) From the above, we can see that a cord, 244 megalithic yards long, when stretched across a 750-radius circle, stands off the arc by 10 megalithic yards. Scaling down ten times is therefore not difficult to do. Ten megalithic yards becomes one, and the 244 cord becomes 24.4. And; since we only need deal with half-arcs at a time, 24.4 reduces to 12.2.
15 (right) Few coordinates are needed to produce a reasonably good 750MY arc. After running a rope around as few as six pegs, like those represented above by tiny black dots, the curve would be easy to improve by eye.
Fact: Professor Thom used Avebury's great size to refine his megalithic yard to 32.664 imperial inches, 0.83metres. What is less known is that he measured to the inside faces of Avebury's stones. Clearly then, Thom fully understood Avebury to be an internal device!
16. Avebury's geometry, stage 6.
Again following the work of Professor Thom, three 260-radius arcs are now cast from A, B and C of the initial triangle. This leaves only one more arc to go.
Fact: The most important Stone Age number is the number three because it represents the family. This has been known since 2008 when this author noticed that some timber posts of Durrington Walls' Southern Circle (its a collection of eggs!) were set up in rows of three.
Aubrey Burl also noticed how people itemised things in three’s in his book “Prehistoric Avebury,” page 117, 1979.
It also follows that as well as founding Avebury on three triangles, the 750 arc should be three times greater than the 250 arc. This eye-opening geometry, based on the simplest of Pythagorean triangles, was the motive that spurred Avebury folk to action.
17. Avebury's Geometry, Stage 7.
Professor Thom made the second 750 megalithic yard arc convex to match the others. But recent results of ground penetrating radar conducted by the Ordinance Survey suggest this final arc might be concave as I have drawn it. However, the exact geometry in this particular sector can only be resolved by further excavation. Please press the Find out more button.