Wiltshire Museum Models: Replicas for Learning (and for Tourists!)

Stonehenge model, photo by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission

Stonehenge model, photo by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission

One of the things that have become apparent in the last ALMOST FIVE YEARS that we have been posting on the Clonehenge blog is that there are many different categories of Stonehenge replicas—many reasons for making them, many sizes, many materials, many styles, many places where they are made and where they end up. Generally, each replica falls into several categories, for example: small, carrot, before-it-was-ruined, just-for-fun; large, metal, partial, sculpture/art, or full-sized, edible, citrus, trilithon, parade float (with druid).

There are several kinds of museums that may have Stonehenge replicas (large or small), as we have shown in posts over the years. A clock museum may depict Stonehenge as an early time piece. Astronomical museums often have replicas as examples of how even our distant ancestors were fascinated by the movement of the sun, stars. and planets. Archaeological and historical museums, of course, depict and talk about Stonehenge and the light it sheds on the lives and thoughts of early civilisations.

The Wiltshire Museum, in Devizes, Wiltshire, UK (formerly known as the Wiltshire Heritage Museum), falls more or less into the last category. We’ve shown you some of their Stonehenge and Avebury (and West Kennet Long Barrow and Marden Henge) models before, as well as their stunning and unique “Celtic” Cabinet, all courtesy of friend of the blog and fine photographer of ancient sites, Pete Glastonbury.

Avebury model, photo by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission

Avebury model, photo by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission

Well, HERE ARE MORE! More model, more label, more learning, more fun! The photo at the top is a labeled model of Stonehenge as it may have looked at its height, including station stones, the slaughter stone, and the ditch and bank that (almost) make Stonehenge officially a henge. (Technically it isn’t, quite, but you can look that up yourself.) We don’t know what the model is made of or who made it, but as you can see, this is a very good model.

The lower photo is of Avebury as it may have been at its height in the Bronze Age, with the South and North Circles, including the Cove, and beginnings of the avenues that lead to the Longstones at Beckhampton, and to West Kennet Long Barrow. Nice!

While things like the shapes of individual stones seem not to be addressed (do we even know what shapes the stones were thousands of years ago?), these are about as close as we get to definitive models. The anonymous model makers would probably be offended by our units of reward, but we nevertheless give these models a 7 druids score! Very good score, considering their size.

Models like this aren’t as whimsical or exciting as many of the others we’ve posted, but they are still Stonehenge replicas and our blog would be incomplete without them, and that, friends, cannot be allowed.

Our deep gratitude once again to Mr. Pete Glastonbury! Remember, as Christmas approaches and you need something unusual for your discerning family members and friends, Pete’s unique photographs of Stonehenge, Avebury, and Silbury Hill make great gifts! And if you’re truly interested in knowing more about Stonehenge and the surrounding ancient landscape, AND you have iBooks, you’ll enjoy the unusually broad spectrum of knowledge in his Stonehenge Guide. [Spoiler: he actually admits he knows us!]

We don’t make any money from those promotions, but when you buy something because we said so, it gives us a false feeling of power and importance. We need that gratification, people!

Thank you for reading, and until next time (when we have a new large permanent replica to share), happy henging!

More Views of a Museum Stone

photos by Gary of @Avebury_News, the guide coordinator at Avebury NT, used with permission

This is just a small supplement to our post of February 11, More Old Film: Model of an Avebury Stone. Friend of the blog, Gary of @Avebury_News on Twitter, posted these photos of the stone we featured in that post. The photos in the last post were taken in 1955. These were taken fifty-five years later.

This now venerable display has educated generations of children and adults. As @Avebury_News said, “The model depicts how they believe the Avebury, and I guess Stonehenge, stones were potted.” By which we suppose he means set in the ground.

It is fascinating to see that, while the supporting poles do seem to have been moved, and the little antler replicas have disappeared, it looks as if the twine or string remains exactly as it was fifty-five years ago! You may well say, Why not?, but it seems to us somehow remarkable and wonderful, this sturdy stone somehow chosen to be a teacher while its fellows stay out on the landscape ignored, and this twine, probably wrapped in a moment or two by a museum worker, still just as it was.

The whole thing plays in to the timelessness of the larger site around it. We’re charmed! The stone was no doubt chosen to represent the lozenge-shaped stones, thought perhaps to represent the feminine principle. And there behind it is the beautiful, mystical (at least to us) Silbury Hill, like the umbilicus some believe it to have represented.

[This display can be found in the Stables Gallery of the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury, Wiltshire, UK, home of the largest stone circle in the world. In case you just stumbled on us now. (Do try to keep up!)]

And to all of our readers, happy henging!

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More Old Film: Model of an Avebury Stone

photos and film link sent us by Pete Glastonbury, used with permission

Apparently posting about Stonehenge replicas is, well, just not obscure and geeky enough for us. Otherwise why would we be so delighted to bring you this odd trifle–a film from 1955, narrated by well-known British writer and television personality John Betjeman, that includes, for a few seconds, the above model showing how the  stones of the Avebury monument may have been erected? [for those who don't know about Avebury, see here.]

We’ve posted some other Avebury models. That all started because someone mentioned and we concurred that Avebury is so much larger and impressive than Stonehenge yet there didn’t appear to be any Avebury replicas. Friend of the blog and well-known ancient sites photographer Pete Glastonbury proceeded to come up with not one but several small Avebury models and we couldn’t resist posting them.

This is very much the same story, except this time the only record we have of the model is this film, from about 2:08 to 2:18, minutes and seconds in. Then it goes on to the beakers of the Beaker Culture who are thought to have built Avebury and much of Stonehenge. That, like the rest of the film, is worth a look, of course, but our focus is on those ten seconds showing the model from the museum in Avebury (no doubt the one we know as the Alexander Keiller Museum–we’ve posted models from them before).

Among the things we enjoyed in the film are the certainty about the purpose of Avebury–burial, and about how the stones were erected–with poles and rawhide ropes.  We’re accustomed to much more speculation about these things now. And then there’s this sentence “What makes Avebury so strange is its sinister atmosphere.” Not everyone would agree about that, judging from accounts we’ve heard and from our own visit. Sinister is not a word we would use for the broad sunny expanse we encountered those many years ago!

First broadcast on 23 September 1955, this was the first of twenty six in the series Discovering Britain. We’re not sure whether the others are available. No score for this little stone model. It’s just to enjoy.

We’re starting to think we like this film theme and may just keep it up, on and off for a while as the Academy Awards ceremony approaches. A surprising number of films, better known than this one, featured Stonehenge or its likeness, and since most could not film at the real thing, replicas were made. Try to think of a few more films with Stonehenge-ish things in them, and see if we come up with the same list.

Until we meet again, Happy henging!

[Note: we're told, by @Avebury_News on Twitter, that this model is still in the stables museum.]

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Avebury 6,000 Years of Mystery, Barn Gallery

AveburyModelNT 2photo by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Perhaps this is the ultimate Avebury replica. Housed in the National Trust’s Barn Gallery, associated with the Alexander Keiller Museum which we mentioned once before, this Avebury replica has all the bells and whistles–or at least all the buttons and LEDs. Buttons by the information plaques around the edge turn on the lights by the features they describe.

And what an array of features! Pete Glastonbury tells us, “The model has a complete Avebury, Silbury and Windmill Hill.It includes the following Longbarrows: Shelving stones, Horslip, Longstones, South Street and West Kennet. It even includes the wooden Palisade Enclosure and Falkners stone circle near the West Kennet Avenue..” At long last, the Avebury replica with everything our greedy hearts could desire!

Avebury is that obvious circle in the middle of the model above, and Silbury Hill is the white bump. The long barrows are the odd green hot-dog-in-roll things scattered about. Windmill Hill is in the upper left and the palisaded enclosures are in the lower right. This truly gives a sense of the Avebury landscape. All of the ancient stone circles and henges are better understood in their landscape context.

This is, as photographer Pete Glastonbury says, The Big One. Score: 9 druids. We can’t even think of anything funny to say!

More Avebury–And We Thought There Were None!

AveburyModelWHM2 3

photos by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Hello again from the amazing Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes. Of course we’re not actually there, but we have a rich fantasy life! Today, thanks to our regular supplier of Afghani-grade Avebury photos, we have two Avebury models to post. Avebury is a very large stone circle in Wiltshire England. We hope you already knew that.

The model above is to be applauded for accuracy and detail. It shows the circle as it might have been in its heyday, with circles and avenues leading from the circle complete. Very nice. We would like it better without the labels, but we understand that in a museum, the point is to communicate knowledge and the labels serve that purpose.  8 druids for this one.

AveburyModelWHM 3And then there’s this one, depicting, as it might have been at its height, the entire Avebury region, or nearly so, as it excludes Windmill Hill and, of course, all the ancient crop circles. It includes various barrows, the serpentine avenues (which we discussed here), Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, and if you look closely enough there may be a tiny model of Pete Glastonbury walking around taking pictures (or if there isn’t perhaps there should be). This, too, is an extraordinary piece of work, and we award it 8½ druids. We like to see the whole landscape represented!

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum is said to house numerous models of Stonehenge seen nowhere else, the amazing Celtic Cabinet, and, for now, Clonehenge’s favourite exhibition, Inspired by Stonehenge, which includes “a variety of objects, graphics, music and moving images including postcards and guidebooks, clothing, paperweights and snow globes, jigsaw puzzles, horse brasses, toasting forks and even a stamp from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that shows Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Pluto at Stonehenge. There is also a quantity of souvenir china – some more attractive than others. Once visitors have viewed the exhibition they can vote for the item they consider to be in the worst possible taste!” Bold emphasis added by us. People, does it get any better than that?!

Hours and admission fees for the museum can be seen here. Oh, and the site says “Youngsters are encouraged to be ‘Inspired by Stonehenge’, and are invited to send in photographs of their own Stonehenge models for display in the Museum over the summer.” We plan to lean on the museum a little in autumn, to get them to let us post the best–and perhaps the worst–ones they get. And you haven’t seen the last of Wiltshire Heritage Museum on this blog. More in a few days!

Avebury Model, Britton Cabinet

BrittonCabinetAvebury2photos by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

When we left you in the previous episode, Clonehenge was in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum examining the remarkable Britton Cabinet. Today Director David Dawson has kindly opened a drawer to show us the detailed Avebury model inside. Wow!

To refresh your memories, we have posted Avebury models before, of varying degrees of detail and accuracy, all, as it happens, found for us by the formidable Pete Glastonbury, champion of Wiltshire. One was lovely, but just the circle;  one was, well, clever but rudimentary; and the third, while it covered a good area and included Windmill Hill, which is a plus, lacked the crucial element of stones.

Compared to those, this is more like a William Stukeley drawing of the site in 3-D, and in fact it includes a drawing of Stukeley’s serpent interpretation of the Avebury landscape at the bottom.

serpentine templeStukeley proposed that the avenues of standing stones, now called Beckhampton and West Kennet Avenues, originally combined with the Avebury circle to form a glyph of a serpent passing through a ring, a traditional alchemical symbol. The head was formed by a circle now called the Sanctuary, alas devoid of stones in modern times, but once a double stone circle.

This model’s scale does not allow the entire “serpent” to be shown, so along with the drawing, it includes small models of the stones that make up its head and tail. Was a serpent really the builders’ intention? Hard to say, but the idea is the darling of those who strive to link megaliths and ancient sites around the world. It is certainly the kind of fancy that draws new people into the world of the megalith. Mind you, Stukeley was a brilliant observer, but he thought Avebury was a druid temple. ‘Nuff said.

Score for this Avebury replica: 9 druids. The only way you could improve upon it would be to make it much larger and show more of the landscape in scale: West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Windmill Hill, etc. It’s a delectable morsel for the megarak’s eye. Still, even that can’t prepare you for a walk among the stones themselves! May we all get that chance in our lifetimes.

Avebury, Silbury, and West Kennet Long Barrow

akmmodel-2

from the Alexander Keiller Museum, by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Another model of the Avebury landscape has been sent us by faithful reader and ace photographer Pete Glastonbury. This one is of molded stone and shows the landscape as it is now but without houses, cars, etc.

We miss the stones on this one, but the large scale that made them difficult to include also made it possible to include Windmill Hill, almost certainly an important part of whatever was being done on that landscape in the times of the builders.

Avebury is in the middle, the mound below it is Silbury and the cigar-shaped thing toward the bottom in the center is West Kennet Long Barrow. Score: 6 druids. Oh, to be in Wiltshire now that Spring is here!