The Obelisk through the southern entrance
The construction is moving on well, so I think I need to step back, take a breath and think about what I’m learning from all this. It’s easy to get carried away with the research and building as it is so absorbing, but I’ve also realised that I am beginning to develop a different sense of Avebury than I have previously had. I’ve visited the physical place probably more than a hundred times in my life; as I only live 7 miles away it is a place I go to frequently. But constructing a virtual simulation has given me a different perspective, and made me think about some things that have never really struck me before. So these are some thoughts about insides and outsides, and entrances and exits.
I’m becoming more and more affected by the difference between being inside and outside the henge in virtual Avebury. In physical world Avebury the outside and inside are not as clearly delineated as there are roads and paths running through the henge and there are several buildings inside it, including a shop and a pub, that block the view across it. In some places it is easy to lose the sense of whether you are inside or outside the henge, but in virtual Avebury the difference is very clear. And that strong sense of being inside or outside has made me realise why the gaps in the ditch and bank system, that are often referred to as entrances, might be so important. The evidence seems to show that the stones in front of the entrances are some of the largest in the complex and that the banks were higher and the ditches deeper as they got close to the entrances, giving them an extra emphasis. There may even have been some wooden supports around the ends of the banks. The act of moving from outside to inside, and the other way round, feels important in virtual Avebury in a way it is harder to comprehend in the present day remains of the henge. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the entrances were for anyone to use; it may have been restricted access for certain people. Or the entrances may not have been for people at all, but for spirits, or light, or something insubstantial. But whatever the gaps in the banks and ditches were for, they certainly feel important, even key, in virtual Avebury.
Another thing that has struck me is that the remaining 3 stones at the entrances today (2 at the southern entrance and 1 at the northern entrance) suggest that the builders chose very large, rectangular stones deliberately. The 2 stones at the southern entrance are set square in the ground, whereas the remaining northern stone is set on one of its points to give the iconic Avebury diamond stone shape. In all the years I have been going to Avebury, it didn’t really strike me that the stones are very similar shapes, and they have been deliberately set to create the rectangular and diamond shapes. It was only when I was modelling and setting them that it really struck me. Seems ridiculous that I have looked at these stones for years, but that I hadn’t fully realised the significance of deliberately turning the northern one through 45 degrees compared to the southern ones. So, I have set the partner of the northern entrance stone in the same way, as it seems likely to me that they were both set as a pair, as are the southern entrance stones. Then I thought about what to do at the eastern and western entrances. Well, perhaps the northern half of the henge was represented by diamond shapes and the southern by rectangular shapes, so I have set the northern stones at the eastern and western entrances as diamonds and the southern stones as rectangles. Of course, that’s my interpretation, but as long as I’m clear about the distinction between evidence and interpretation, that’s fine. After all, without interpretation we wouldn’t be able to make sense of sites like Avebury at all!
I think that once I extend the southern and western entrances into the West Kennet and Beckhampton avenues, the nature of them is likely to change again, and I’m thinking about different ways in which that might be represented. For example, leaving the grass short inside the avenues and long outside would give a different feel to having a short grass path outside the avenue and leaving the grass long inside. I’ve been creating paths inside the henge to see how that makes it feel – I think that will be the subject of the next post!