Page 62 - Inside the Henge

Notes on every stone of the Avebury Henge, with their exact positions, may be found in this pdf:     STONES OF THE AVEBURY HENGE

For notes  on the morphology of each stone (holes etc) see the GEOLOGY section of this website

 

Page 65 - Stone 9 and the Barber Surgeon

During Keiller's excavations of the SW Quadrant a skeleton was discovered beneath Stone 9. Keiller declared the man to have been a 'Barber-Surgeon' but was he really? Brian Edwards' 2006 article investigates the mystery:
RHC BARBER-SURGEON

back to top

Page 62 - Musical Resonances in Stone 9

We are all familiar with ways of producing a musical note from a bottle: we can either blow across the neck to make a flute sound, or slap it for a percussive 'gloop'. The bottle functions as a Helmholtz Resonator, with a resonant frequency that may be calculated from its proportions; hence a large bottle will produce a lower note than a small bottle. Root holes found in some sarsen stones may similarly be used to produce musical sounds. One example is the famous 'blowing stone' not far from the Uffington White Horse, which can be made to sound like a trumpet and features in the novel Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Most sarsen holes are not suitably positioned for blowing, but there are many in and around Avebury that will sound a note if lightly tapped with the palm of a hand. The best example is Stone 9 of the southwest quadrant, the 'Barber Stone'. Its outer (western) face has many holes that can produce musical notes when struck; in the centre of its inner (eastern) face is one particularly resonant hole that is tuned to middle C (261.6 Hz). The resonance may be excited by tapping the hole, or by making vocal clicks into it. If a middle C is sung into the hole, unlike other notes it will be amplified; the resonance will cause the note to ring on for some time. Several other stones of the southwest quadrant and the West Kennet Avenue have musical resonances.

Whether or not this property of sarsen stone was known or exploited in prehistory is impossible to say. However, if the stones were revered, perhaps as the embodiment of ancestral spirits, then slapping them would hardly be a respectful thing to do. Also, the majority of the resonant holes in the southwest quadrant are positioned on the outer, hidden faces of the stones; one would assume that if they were meant to be played, the stones would have been mounted the other way around, facing in to the centre of the henge.

back to top

Page 65 - Smoother on the Inside?

It has been claimed that all of Avebury's stones are set with their smoothest, flattest faces to the inside of their settings. Is this actually true? Determining this from fieldwork is not a simple task. Here are my findings, from June 2009:
ROUGH OR SMOOTH?

 

Page 79 - The Cove

Coves are mysterious features and very little has been written about them. Aubrey Burl 's WANHM article from 1988 is quite informative:

Burl, Aubrey 1988 `Coves: structural enigmas of the Neolithic' Wiltshire Archaeol Natur Hist Mag 82, 1988 1-18
A text-only archived version may be found here:   BURL COVES
 

See also Coves, cosmology and cultural astronomy  by Lionel Sims: COVES SIMS


back to top