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.]

Share

Silbury Replica: Because it’s There

SilburyModel2photo by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

At the same Barn Gallery in Avebury that we mentioned in this post, friend of the blog and finder of obscurities Pete G. found this solo replica of Silbury Hill. As far as we can tell, the cirular plaques around it explain the stages by which the mound was made.

We post this as part of this series of museum replicas we’ve been posting, most of them having to do with the greater Avebury landscape. We have a fond place in our hearts for Silbury because when we visited in  1972 we tried to run all the way up it. (Do not do this–it is not allowed, nor should it be, and we apologise. We were young . . . sigh)

This is a very nice replica, probably in better shape than the hill itself at this point. We won’t score it, though. The druid thing seems funny in connection with Avebury and Stonehenge, but just seems stupid in the face of Silbury’s potent form.

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!

Avebury and Silbury and the Long Barrow, too

avebury0002

photo from Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Sent in by faithful reader and premier Wiltshire photographer, Pete Glastonbury, this model of the Avebury, Silbury landscape  was made by a local as part of his train set.

We get the question from time to time, “Why replicas of Stonehenge and not Avebury, which is bigger?” Well, this is part of what started us off with this project in the first place. Why is Stonehenge such an obsession with people (at least those who don’t speak Latin-based languages)? Why not replicas of Callanish, the Rollright Stones, Castlerigg, Duloe, Drombeg, Stenness, or any of the many others in the British Isles and around the world? It must be those lintels and trilithons!

At any rate, here is that rare item, the Avebury replica,  Silbury Hill included, their  chalk still white as it must have been before turf grew over them. The little chunk of summat on the lower right is West Kennet Long Barrow. A brilliant bit of work, we think.

Speaking of train sets, a train set at a show in Kemptville, Ontario included a precariously perched bit of Stonehenge, not worthy of a post to itself, but worth mentioning and  [link]ing to. How many Stonehenges are out there gathering dust as small trains roar by?

Thinking of Avebury Replicas

aveburytable

Table once owned by Roger Bolton, photo by Pete Glastonbury– a model of Avebury as it is thought to have looked at its height

Time out from our mission here to look at Avebury replicas. There aren’t many, but they do exist. We have made a point so far of avoiding lintel-less stone circles unless there is something else special and Stonehenge-like about them. There are probably as many modern stone circles as there are Stonehenge replicas, and we had to draw the line somewhere.

Avebury, however, is a special case for several reasons, including physical closeness and probable other connections to Stonehenge as well as the  fact that at 427 meters in diameter it is the largest stone circle in the world.  Yet few replicas exist.

avebury-google-earth[Avebury on Google Earth] Although a great many of its stones are now missing, Avebury is one of the wonders of the British countryside and likely part of a ritual complex that included a megalithic avenue leading to it, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, and other less well known but fascinating features. It, too, is a henge and roughly contemporary with Stonehenge, which is nearby, although Avebury’s stones probably went up first.

avebury-cots21[One of 2 Avebury models from the DVD The Children of the Stones] Somehow Avebury never acquired the cache Stonehenge has. Yet a few small replicas do exist, and this evening we present two, courtesy of Mr. P. Glastonbury, megarak and photographer extraordinaire. We won’t score them. To see more photos of Avebury itself and some high dynamic range panoramas of it and other places, visit Pete Glastonbury’s site. I suppose next we’ll have people making mounds of dirt and sending us pictures of Silbury Hill replicas. Even the aliens who make crop circles agree–there’s something about Wiltshire!

Share