The West Kennet Avenue of stones seen from Avebury's Sanctuary. Windmill Hill is on the sky line.

38. Some people are puzzled as to why there should be three rows of stones entering the Sanctuary when the West Kennet Avenue, to which the Sanctuary was connected, has only two.

Perhaps the above photograph, taken from the Sanctuary, provides the answer. It's as if people wanted to square the circle by respecting Avebury's roots and used the third row to point back at Windmill Hill.

Taken on the 21st December 2018 on the day of the winter solstice, this picture looks back at what remains of the West Kennet Avenue of stones as they make their way to Avebury beyond the rise and out of sight.

The vehicle to the left of the picture was employed to block the road to revellers vehicles and stopped them getting to Avebury. 

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39. The West Kennet long barrow. aligned east west on the equinox.

You could say that it's 300 feet of wasted chalk, considering the burial chamber only occupies a short length at the front of it. But the purpose of this long barrow was to catch the rising sun and moon.

This barrow was decommissioned when Stonehenge was complete. If it ever was! A shot-dead beaker person with an arrow in his back was the last to be interred inside the barrow, his skeleton complete, unlike the other poor so and so's, whose torsos where dismembered so their skulls and mandibles could be redistributed to other sites . The portal was then blocked with several massive sarsens which remain in position today.


There are several books around that will tell you everything you need to know about the West Kennet long barrow, so I could leave you to have a good read of them while I go off and make a nice cup of tea.

For example, Aubrey Burl wrote a book “Prehistoric Avebury” that tells of disorderly skeletal remains scattered about the chambers of this barrow, with skulls either never placed in the tomb or removed for use in some other monument. 

Again, Professor John North’s book “Stonehenge: Neolithic man and the Cosmos” tells of stars seen to rise in-line with the chambers of the West Kennet long barrow, and another star that he says utilizes the spine of the barrow to rise and set as seen by someone standing in the bottom of its northern ditch.

But we want to understand what Avebury was all about, so we need to find ways in which our monuments tried to bring the sun, the moon, and the stars together in one place. So it’s no use looking at one single monument in glorious isolation because it will prove absolutely nothing.

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40. The portal of the West Kennet long barrow was blocked around 2,500 BC by what look to me like a family of three stones. There’s a bulbous female, an angular-top male, and a small stone to represent their child. Without these three stones, the portal takes the shape of a modern satellite dish for sending and receiving signals, and every one of the portal stones has its best face pointing outwards for some similar purpose.

The chambers walls of this long barrow were built using massive sarsens, and the builders couldn’t help but notice that several gaps remained between the sarsens and felt those gaps needed filling. So they filled them in with some very tidy brickwork. 

This brickwork is so good that the occasional visitor can be forgiven for thinking it the repair work of archaeologists. But it’s not. The limestone for this brickwork was collected at least 25 miles away in the area of Bath and Frome.

Now, it just so happens that a very instructive long barrow, built from limestone, lies between Bath and Frome at a place called Wellow. That’s where we’re off to now, to find out just what these long barrows were about and what people hoped to achieve. 

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41. Sitting on a limestone ridge just sort of a mile to the south of the village of Wellow, the secret of the Stoney Littleton long barrow lies with its orientation and having to look uphill at the southernmost risings of the sun and moon. 

Once again we find ourselves referring to online Bing to provide us with an overhead photograph to prove this barrow to point 136-degrees from north. (44-degrees east of south) We also turn to Ordinance Survey maps to calculate the distance to the far horizon and its height above the barrow (altitude).

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42. The Stoney Littleton long barrow 3,500 BC and its portal. 

Many believe this barrow to be aligned on the winter solstice because rays from the rising sun enter its portal and light up its chambers for several days in late December. But this is an oversimplification of what this barrow is really about. 

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43.  We learn from the above plot that no one can claim this barrow to be aligned on the winter solstice because the sun falls short of its axis by around one-degree. This is despite of the fact that the sun lights up the chambers for several days every December.

 

The 2008 GPS survey of Woodhenge Ring C showed that Bronze Age folk accurately measured some angles in 10-degree steps as well as respecting the cardinal points, north, east, south and west. So Stonehenge, with its axis of 50-degrees was not aligned on the summer solstice as many people think.  That's because the summer solstice at Stonehenge occurred at 49-degrees. 

This is something we see often with barrows and monuments aligned between the sun and moon which make it obvious what they and the people who built them were all about. They wanted to bring the sun and moon together!

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43. The red-tinted area of sky seen above, is the maximum amount of sky ever visited by the sun. This left a similar amount of sky for the moon to play with when she approaches her most southerly point of rising. . 

The sun, in mid-December,  just manages to appear in the top left-hand corner of the portal when seen from inside the barrow. Then, as the coming solstice is approached, the sun clears the horizon on the extreme left, but only manages to cover about a third of the sky seen pink in the picture. 

The moon, every 18.6-years, will scan all the sky seen above, and will also cast light down the portal to light up the chambers, as does the sun. 

Furthermore, Sirius, the brightest star, followed the path of the sun in 3,500 BC, and on 21st December every year, traced out the dividing line between the two areas . So the light from Sirius entered the tomb as well.

Clearly, the Stoney Littleton long barrow brought the sun, moon, and Sirius together in a place where men, women and children were interred. 


When it comes to making decisions on a monuments alignment and what those alignments mean, we need at least three things: An Ordinance Survey map of the area that gives land-height’s in OD’s {Above Datum, (which I believe means height above sea level)}: Aerial photography from the likes of the excellent Online Bing: and an all-points diagram of azimuths of the area of interest, such that produced by Professor John North in “Neolithic Man and the Cosmos,” page 226. 

Every one of these facilities was brought into play when researching the Stoney Littleton long barrow so let’s return to Avebury and look at the long barrows known as East and West Kennet. These two barrows, at 330-foot long each, are the longest in Wiltshire and were possibly meant to work as a pair.


First the East Kennet long barrow, which has never been excavated. Today, it’s covered from end to end in trees, which make it nigh-on impossible to work out its azimuth.  

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45. The East Kennet long barrows alignments. Estimated Azimuth 142-degrees: 38-degrees east of south.

The first thing to notice about this barrow is that unlike Stoney Littleton whose axis appears to give preference to the sun, the axis of the East Kennet long barrow is nearer the moon.

Also, the builders were obviously aware of the fact that the southernmost setting moon appears to roll down Milk Hill every 18.61 years and positioned the barrow in an ideal place to capture it. And the winter solstice sets alongside Tan Hill every December. All this makes me think that there must have been a large standing stone in front of the portal of this barrow (if it has a portal) for reflecting this sun and moonlight into its chambers. Alternatively, it might be fitted with side chambers. And maybe chamber at its rear end. 

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41. The Palisades. Talking about nine-month-old Pigs...  

Massive feasting on pigs took place hundreds of years before the feasts at Durrington Walls were even thought of - at Avebury’s Palisades. There, sarsen stones and the bones of hundreds of pigs, specially reared for the purpose, (or brought from hundreds of miles away) were packed up against the bases of some 4,000 timber posts to stabilise and invest the Palisades with life. The Palisades were then burnt to the ground.

 

My drawing of the Palisades is superimposed on top of a photograph of the River Kennet floodplain, taken while standing on top of the West Kennet long barrow. The red pyramid was dubbed Silbaby by someone who believed it prehistoric. It’s not; it is in fact where Waden Hill comes down to meet the floodplain of the Kennet. The Kennet is seen above as a blue line that passes through the middle of the Palisades.

Perhaps “Silbaby’s” real importance to people of the Neolithic was the spring that flows from out of its base. The water from this spring skirts around Silbaby’s base in a semicircle, before going on to join the Kennet. 

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42. Woodhenge, and the results of the definitive 2008 GPS survey.

Accept Woodhenge as being a collection of moon-aligned eggs, designed to be fertilised by rays of summer sunlight passing down a solstice corridor where a four year old girl lay buried, and Britain's Stone Age becomes solved! 

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