53. Some seem 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, as seen above.
Perhaps the above photograph, taken in-line with the Sanctuary's third row of stones, provides the answer. It's as if Avebury folk were trying to square the circle and showed respect to Avebury's roots by aiming the third row to point back at Windmill Hill.
Taken on the 21st of 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 van on the left of the picture was employed to block the road to revellers vehicles and stopped them from driving to Avebury. I recall the time I tried parking at the rough and ready layby, near to where the van is. I was followed all the way down the lane by a police car that drew alongside and pointed a powerful light in my face to make me move on.
54. The West Kennet long barrow. aligned east west with the equinox.
You could say that it's three hundred 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 massive sarsens which remain in position today.
There are books around that will tell you everything you need to know about the West Kennet long barrow, so I could leave you to have an enjoyable read while I go off and make a nice cup of tea. For example, Aubrey Burl authored 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 carried off to 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 portal of the barrow, and a star which utilizes its spine as a false horizon, to be 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. And it is no use looking at one single monument in glorious isolation because it will prove absolutely nothing.
55. 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.
56. The Stoney Littleton Long Barrow sits on a limestone ridge just short of a mile to the south of the village of Wellow. It is by pointing almost three-degrees into the sky -- and with the distant horizon of four-degrees -- that this barrow receives winter solstice sunlight of greater intensity than it would on the flat. Moreover, the ridge it is built on, falls away on its western side. The drop on its western side divides the horizon into two halves to produce one for the sun and another for the moon.
Once again, we find ourselves referring to on-line Bing to provide us with satellite photographs that helps prove this barrow to point about 136.5-degrees from north. We also use Ordinance Survey maps to calculate altitudes and horizon distances with respect to southernmost rising positions of the sun and moon.
57. The portal of the Stony Littleton long barrow 3,500 BC.
This barrow is believed to be aligned on the winter solstice because rays from the rising sun enter its portal and light up its passage and chambers for several days in late December, but this is an oversimplification of the facts. So, more work is required here. What we need is for archaeologists to bring the LASER equipment they use to search for hidden passages inside Egypt's pyramids, and use that equipment to finally prove the azimuth of Stoney Littleton's passageway.
As already pointed out, my best guess (Not guess, Judgement, as my woodwork teacher used to say) is for 136.5, which means that the southernmost sun surpasses the passage or corridor, by around one and a half degrees, similar to Stonehenge. This also makes me wonder. Is this long barrow as old as the suggested 3,500 BC?
58. A view out of the portal. We cannot claim this barrow to be perfectly aligned on the winter solstice, because the sun, as at Stonehenge, is likely to surpass its axis by one or two degrees. This is of course, deliberate!
59. Another tale of two horizons. There is no doubt that the Stoney Littleton long barrow effectively pushes the sun and moon further apart. As the above diagram shows.
60. And this is what it looks like in practice. Do you see how the land falls away on the right? This picture shows how the barrow has been placed to split the horizon into two parts and pushed the moon further away. On the other hand, the moon, every 18.61-years, unlike the sun, scans every bit of the sky seen above.
Furthermore, Sirius, the brightest star, followed the path of the sun between 3480 and 3,350 BC -- Professor John North "Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos 1996".
So as well as the sun, the light from Sirius entered the tomb as well. And let us not forget that it was intended for Sirius to enter the long barrow of Gussage St Michael III, inserted into the six-mile-long Dorset Cursus.
The Stoney Littleton long barrow brought the Sun, the moon, and Sirius together in a place where it was hoped that the people buried there would hand over their lives, or spirits for some greater purpose.
61. Further reading. When it comes to alignments on the sun and moon at Stoney Littleton, Terence Meaden, in his book "Stonehenge: The secret of the solstice", has them covered.
So let us return to Avebury and take look at the long barrows of East and West Kennet, which at 330-foot long each, are the longest in Wiltshire and were 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 that make it near impossible to work out its exact azimuth.
62. 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.
Furthermore, 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 a chamber at its rear end.
Minor Standstills shown in the above diagram can be ignored.
63. THE ROLLRIGHT COMPLEX Taken from the south, this is a view of the Rollright Circle and Whispering Knights that few see. The circle, known as the Kings men, can be seen on the extreme left. The Whispering Knights are over at extreme right. The purpose of this picture is to show that the Whispering Knights, unlike the circle, are positioned a little below the horizon. The purpose of which will be explained later.