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Happy 90th Anniversary

The game is afoot! Today is the 90th anniversary of the very start of Keiller’s first campaign of sustained fieldwork at Avebury.

Alexander Keiller’s ‘Excavation Diary’, 1934, page 65. Accession number 78510467.

On Sunday the 8th of April 1934 the initial trenches were surveyed on the line of the West Kennet Avenue. Keiller’s own excavation diary records this in a rather matter of fact fashion:

‘11.15am staff also WY, PW and FC to site. Elephants [small tents] and Mammoth [large tent] erected. Gear unpacked.

Afternoon. Cutting Ci, Cutting Cii, Cutting Ciii, Cutting Civ, Cutting Cv, Cutting Cvi, Cutting Cvii, Cutting Cviii, Cutting Cix inclusive plotted by theodolite according to new “Central Line Method”.

Evening. Above plotting completed. 

Sunshine: clear: warm till evening: then chilly.’

In his own diary entry for Sunday the 8th of April WEVY (William Young) is a little more eloquent:

‘Spent the greater part of the day, (until dark!) in Mr Peak Garlands field, helping Mr Keiller and his staff who were engaged in plotting out the cuttings in preparation for the commencement of the forthcoming excavations tomorrow morning. The spot where Mr Keiller has selected to begin is at the S.E. end of the existing double row of stones, (seven on the left and four on the right of the avenue as one looks towards Kennett) situated along the foot of Weedon Hill, or Windmill Boll. It is Mr Keiller’s intention to search eventually for the stone holes of those missing from the right hand row, as well, and he has plotted out a skeleton plan to include the existing stones, beginning with cutting 1 at end S.E. end, which incidentally marks the boundary of the field. Each cutting will be 100 ft in length and 80 ft in width across the avenue, (i.e. extending 40 ft on either side of the avenue axis), and will follow, naturally, in direct succession.’

WEVY then marks in his diary ‘The Kennet Avenue Excavations’ in large handwriting on Monday 9th April… so this Avebury anniversary might properly be celebrated on both days.

Today is a fitting day then for introducing a new phase to Avebury’s history: read more about our commissioned artists, Gayle Chong Kwan and Kialy Tihngang.

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Avebury Papers: Artist Commission Announcement

We are delighted to announce our two Artist Commissions for the Avebury Papers.

Gayle Chong Kwan and Kialy Tihngang will be exploring the Avebury archive in the coming year, and we are excited to see what they make of the archive’s varied materials and stories.

Our artist commission began with an open call in September, and we were overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of proposals. Avebury clearly inspires creativity, and we look forward to seeing the new works, and ways of understanding Avebury, emerge through this commission.

Gayle Chong Kwan’s and Kialy Tihngang’s proposals caught our attention for their serious attention to the complexities of archives and archive practices. Their practices are varied, but what both artists have in common is an open and expansive approach to mixed materials.

A portrait of Gayle Chong Kwan, photograph courtesy of the artist.

Gayle Chong Kwan

Gayle Chong Kwan is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and academic, of Chinese /Mauritian and Scottish heritage, whose work is exhibited internationally in galleries and the public realm. Her large-scale photographic and video work, immersive installations, and sensory ritual events act within and against histories of oppression and positions the viewer as one element in a cosmology of the political, social and ecological. She has a PhD in Fine Art on ‘Imaginal Travel’ from the Royal College of Art, UK (2023) and has been Artist Fellow at Compton Verney (2024), the British Museum (2023), V&A Museum (2021), Ca’ Foscari University Venice (2020).

A portrait of Kialy Tihngang holding ‘Untitled (‘Useless Machines’), 2021, photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kialy Tihngang

Kialy Tihngang is a multidisciplinary Glasgow-based visual artist, working in sculpture, video, textiles, animation and photomontage, often in collaboration with performers and musicians, involving elaborate handmade sets, costumes and props. As a first-generation British-Cameroonian, she is particularly interested in the constructed (and therefore inherently deconstructable) nature of British national identity.

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An Avebury folk song

In addition to Keiller’s records, papers, and correspondence connected with his activities on the property, the Avebury archive also contains material belonging to some of his collaborators on the Avebury project. Among these are the papers of William EV Young (or WEVY) who was the custodian and later curator of Avebury museum.  

Amongst Young’s sundry papers unconnected to the work of running the museum, under the same accession number are documents about local incidents and superstitions – including extracts from a local Reverend’s diary – and several versions of a folk song. 

The document dates from 1953 and, whilst it may be connected to the renewed post-war interest in folk collection generally, it is more likely to reflect Young’s specific interests in local Avebury lore. This version of the song was sung in the pub in Beckhampton, among other places, by John King of Avebury who died in 1917.  

An apparently earlier typed version of the ‘Ground for the Floor’ as sung by John King of Avebury, 20000594-013-001.

The song is Ground for the Floor – Roud 1269. In terms of genre the song is a ‘rustic idyll’ – characterising the simplicity of a rural life as one of contentment. It was also collected by others; including George Gardiner in Hampshire, Sabine Baring-Gould in Devon, and Alfred Williams from the village of Marston Mersey north of Cricklade, in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century phase of interest in folksongs. 

The lyrics and chorus collected have some degree of variation, which include distinct versions such as that collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, that by Gardiner in the South West, which are all broadly similar in structure, if varying as to the chorus . A more notable variation is the one recorded from George Maynard of Sussex, which differs substantially from the other preserved examples of the song. A tune was transcribed by Baring-Gould, and another is in Lucy Broadwood’s English Country Songs. The only recording of the song seems to be of George Maynard’s version of lyrics, first recorded in the 1960s – which appears on Volume 20: There is a Man Upon the Farm of the Voices of the People collection. 

Further research indicated that the lyrics Young and others collected closely match those of a broadside ballad of the same title, printed in London sometime between 1780 and 1812, and digitised by the Bodleian library.

A late 18th / early 19th century printing of Roud Number: 1269; Bodleain Library, Shelfmark: Harding B 11(2066), shared under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DEED.
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Visitors to Avebury and other names

Denis Grant King’s (DGK) journals, written during and after his time spent at Avebury in the 1930s, are rich repositories of names. King notes down site visitors, correspondents, and more. As I’ve been transcribing his journals, I’ve noticed some names appearing frequently, or in contexts which suggest them as important types. I found this fascinating and so decided to do a little research for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity. And then I thought, “if I’m interested, other people might be too”; and so here is the first of what is intended to be several occasional nlogs about these people.

I should have come up with some witty heading along the lines of Avebury Additions, or Excavating Extras but alas, I seem to have lost my little pot of inspiration. Maybe you can come up with something suitable? Suggestions in the comments please.

Avebury Visitors: Part One (16 August to 20 August 1938)

Thursday, August 18th 1938 

(1732623-001-016). When DGK first arrived at Avebury he had a letter of introduction with him written by OGS Crawford

Page 16 of DGK's 'Journal One', accession number 1732623-001. The journal has been opened and photographed at a double page spread, showing Denis Grant King's handwriting. We are transcribing the full text of this image as part of the project.
Page 16 of DGK’s ‘Journal One’, accession number 1732623-001.

Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford, CBE, FBA, FSA was a man who worked largely as the Archaeological Officer for the Ordnance Survey, plotting the locations of archaeological sites. He specialised in Prehistoric archaeology and wrote many books on the subject. During World War Two, as part of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, he made maps and took photographs of the German positions on the Front Line. In 1927 he founded  “Antiquity: A Quarterly Review of Archaeology”, which remains one of THE pre-eminent archaeological journals. The Avebury archive also contains many letters between Crawford and others, including a satirical letter to the Modern Mystic magazine.

Saturday, August 20th 1938 

(1732623-001-023). At Woodbury DGK saw an excavation taking place on the crest of a hill in sight of Salisbury Cathedral (these excavations would later be called “Woodbury I and II”). Here he was introduced to Charles William Phillips who was the Hon Secretary of the Prehistoric Society, and a tutor or professor at Oxford, who was in Salisbury on vacation. DGK describes Phillips as “a fine tall Saxon type, with the muscles of a navvy, aged perhaps 45, with small — almost immature — moustache, and brown to fairish hair”. CWP was also an archaeologist who led the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo, and in 1946 replaced OGS Crawford as the Archaeology Officer for the Ordnance Survey.

Page 23 of DGK's 'Journal One', accession number 1732623-001. The journal has been opened and photographed at a double page spread, showing Denis Grant King's handwriting. We are transcribing the full text of this image as part of the project.
Page 23 of DGK’s ‘Journal One’, accession number 1732623-001.

(1732623-001-023). While at the above-mentioned Woodbury excavations, DGK was also introduced to Dr Gerhard Bersu of Frankfurt and his wife Maria (although DGK never mentioned Maria by name). They were a German couple who had left Germany on account of Gerhard’s Jewish heritage (on the maternal side). DGK describes him as presenting a very comical figure, short and dumpy, round moon-like face, very genial, somewhat discoloured teeth, blue eyes and brownish hair; dressed in loose sail-cloth trousers to the middle caff, a coat of weaving not generally seen in seen in England, and an old greenish Homberg with feathers and heather stuck in the band at the back.

DGK notes that Gehard “spoke in peculiar broken English”, and gives the example of what Gehard was calling “rocking seats” were actually “working seats”. What DGK seemed to be unaware of was Dr Bersu’s ingenious ability to interpret archaeological features. Far from being a ‘dumpy man in strange clothes and an old hat’, the revolutionary excavation techniques employed at this excavation by Gerhard that changed the way Iron Age Britain was interpreted. Before Dr Bersu’s arrival, it was common belief that Iron Age people lived in pits (as DGK mentions in his journal entries). However, by proving that these pits were not dwellings but had been dug for food storage, Dr Bersu was able to prove that Iron Age people lived in Round Houses.

While Dr Bersu was conducting DGK over the site, their group was approached by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Douglas Drew, the curator of Dorset County Museum (DGK mistakenly refers to this as “Dorchester Museum”) and the Secretary to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society. When he died in 1956 The Drew Trust was set up in his name. Even today, this Trust gives outstanding A-Level History students prize money if they attend university.

Page 26 of DGK's 'Journal One', accession number 1732623-001. The journal has been opened and photographed at a double page spread, showing Denis Grant King's handwriting. We are transcribing the full text of this image as part of the project.
Page 26 of DGK’s ‘Journal One’, accession number 1732623-001.

(1732623-001-026). This entry, a continuation of the 20th August, doesn’t include anyone famous, but it shines a little light onto William Young’s life, and his family’s political interests. William is in charge of the excavations at Avebury and DGK is finishing the day by visiting Mr Young’s family home where he meets Mr Young, senior.  On the sideboard he sees two newspapers: The Daily Herald and “Action”. You’re probably wondering why this is worth noting? In those days, The Daily Herald was seen as a newspaper that supported the Labour Party and was aimed at the “working man”. However, Action was a newspaper published by Oswald Mosely’s British Union of Fascists. We don’t know yet what Young senior’s political leanings were, but it raises interesting questions about the circulation of ideas across the country at the time.

Denis was a busy guy on 20th August 1938. I wonder how often he looked back over his diaries and remembered the people he met?

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How to build Avebury: with Denis Grant King

I’m volunteer Kiri, studying for a Masters in Cultural Heritage in Southampton. My job for now is to check the photos and catalogues that have been captured so far. The first step is to check that the photos are clear, complete and standardised. Then make sure the description of the photo and other information in the catalogue matches the photo. I have also been creating catalogue information from scratch when needed. This work is a nice experience for me because it is usually very difficult for people to have access to and view all the archives in a museum’s collection. And the Avebury archives often have some interesting pictures.

This hand-drawn picture is from archaeologist Dennis Grant King, and caught my eye while I was checking the catalogue. The title is ‘Methods employed for transporting and the erection of megaliths’, and unfortunately it is undated, but possibly produced between 1940-1950. In fact this piece caught my attention because it is so exquisitely composed, simple but not simplistic. And I’m sure many people who come across Avebury have similar questions about how the ancient people moved and erected these huge and heavy stones during the Neolithic period. This drawing by King gives a reasonable speculation.

Here is an image of a watercolour drawing by Denis Grant King. It is on cream paper, in red, blue, green, and black inks, showing neolithic people erecting a stone at Avebury.
‘Methods employed for transporting and the erection of megaliths’ drawing by Denis Grant King, Alexander Keiller Museum accession number 20000577-008.

King suggests that Avebury’s megaliths were moved by wooden rollers. People put wooden rollers on the ground and used the rolling of the wooden rollers to keep the megaliths moving. The use of ropes can also make it less difficult to manoeuvre giant stones. When lifting heavy objects, the use of ropes allows the lifting force of multiple people to be combined, reducing the amount of weight each person needs to carry.

The erection of the boulder depicted in the picture was carried out by means of ramp and lever. Inclined planes reduce the force required to move heavy objects, and wood placed on a slope lessens the friction between the object and the ground. Due to the force of gravity, the megalith could slide down the ramp into the stone hole. Plus the use of long wood for leverage saves the force needed to erect the megalith. The friction stakes standing at the other side of the Stone hole helped to keep the megalith balanced without falling over towards the far side of the stone-hole, whilst also preventing the stone from damaging the edge of the stone-hole as it slid into it.

In Smith’s edited volume ‘Windmill hill and avebury: excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925-1939’, reference is made to evidence of construction techniques found by archaeologists at Avebury in the 1960s. The archaeologist Richard Atkinson suggested that the most efficient way of transporting monoliths was sleds and rollers, although these two methods may not necessarily have been used. And the process of erecting the stone vertically probably used levers and ropes.

Smith explains some of the evidence found in the holes at the base of the megaliths. Sometimes varying numbers of stakes have been inserted against the back side of the base of the stone hole to reduce the friction between the megaliths and the edge of the stone hole. In addition, some smaller stones have been found at the bottom of the stone hole, perhaps acting as another anti-friction device and also providing support for the megaliths. After the megalith was erected, the space around the megalith would have been filled with earth and sarsen packing stones to support the stone and keep it standing.

King’s suggestion of how the megaliths were moved and erected is partly similar to Atkinson’s and Smith’s views, including the use of wooden rollers, levers and ropes. And archaeological evidence proves that when erecting boulders, Neolithic people used ramps and stakes to reduce friction.

Reference

Windmill hill and Avebury: excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925-1939, ed. by Isobel Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), pp. 218-222.

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Pinning down the Keiller cuttings – Part 7 (all done for now)

This blog post is part of a series: you may want to read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, and Part 6 first.

We now have, for the very first time, an accurate mapping of the 1934 excavation cuttings that can be used to locate the various features and finds that Keiller and his team excavated, recovered and recorded. There is still work to do. As you will see, these are the basic cutting shapes and as a result all of the various extensions and alterations I talked about in blog post 5 will need to be added in due course. But it’s a solid start.

As this is digital data, we can use a nifty piece of software called a Geographical Information System (GIS for short) to explore and analyse spatial patterns and relationships at a host of scales. 

The cuttings displayed using a GIS

This is important as it will not only allow us to anchor the various elements of the site archive in space, but it also enables us to directly relate Keiller’s findings to the results of other archaeological fieldwork that has taken place since the 1930s.

Take for example the results of a geophysical survey (soil resistance) that was undertaken  on the Avenue line in 2012 in advance of a campaign of excavation (2013 – 15). When we combine these results with the 1934 data we are immediately able to see how well the geophysical survey data has detected Keiller’s cuttings. We can do the same with the 2013-5 trenches and the features revealed by these more recent excavations.

The 2012 resistivity survey results alongside the newly geo-referenced cuttings plan.

So far so good, but you do not need a GIS in order to view and access the 1934 cuttings. Everyone can make use of the newly located cuttings data using free software such as Google Earth. To that end I have created Google Earth compatible files that everyone can use in order to place Keiller’s 1934 cuttings back into the landscape.  

I now need to find a way to share these files with you – so please watch this space!

That’s it for this part of the blog. Next will be 1935, when Keiller decided to take a very different approach to laying out his excavation cuttings; an approach that raises a new set of problems and challenges. See you then. 

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A medieval face

This little chap turned up today in one of the boxes of medieval pottery excavated by Alexander Keiller between 1937 and 1939, that I am currently examining.

It’s quite an unusual piece, almost certainly from a 13th-century jug. The ‘face’ is formed from an added blob of clay, shaped into a rough nose and mouth and with ring-and-dot stamps for the eyes. There is a hint of another ring-and-dot stamp on the right-hand edge, so there may have been a series of applied faces around the jug rim. 

Face jugs were made by many of the medieval pottery industries, for example the Laverstock kilns outside Salisbury, but this example is in a different fabric and may instead come from the Nash Hill kilns at Lacock. This is still quite a distance from Avebury but fine decorated jugs like this were traded over long distances. At least one other example is known from Avebury.

This photograph is a close up of a pot sherd with a 'face' detail of added clay, shaped into a nose and eyes. It is about twice the size of a fifty pence coin, included in the photograph for scale.
Visual description: This photograph is a close up of the pot sherd with a ‘face’ detail of added clay, shaped into a nose and eyes. It is about twice the size of a fifty pence coin, included in the photograph for scale.
A drawing, unsigned and undated, likely an imagined reconstruction of the jug, accession number 20000573-017-006.
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Preparing for War

While transcribing Denis Grant King’s journals, it has struck me how little mention there is of tensions in Europe caused by Hitler and Germany. Of course, my view comes with the gift of hindsight with full knowledge of the tsunami that is about to crash across Europe in the form of the Second World War.

I am now transcribing pages covering spring and summer 1939, and with the exception of the one or two mentions of problems caused by soldiers out on manoeuvres, and occasional musings on war and politics, relatively little has been mentioned of the looming threat of the UK going to war – that is until 26th August. In the journal entry for this day there is mention of some of the steps people were suddenly making, obviously dreading (or expecting) a turn for the worse.

In the journal, it is unclear what discussions had happened at Avebury on this particular day, but the impending war had clearly become enough of a cause for concern for two things to happen. The first was that Alexander Keiller, who considered war to be “imminent”, asked his excavating staff to continue working on the Saturday afternoon to complete recording features and records before the government “called up all the men” for military service. The second thing was that two individuals, Commander Rupert Gould and Leslie Grinsell sent valuable manuscripts to Alexander Keiller so they could be kept safely at his Avebury museum. Commander Gould actually visited Avebury to hand his manuscripts over personally as he travelled to Bath to take up duties at The Admiralty.

For those wondering what significant event happened on 26th August 1939, it was what is referred to as the “Jabłonków Incident” when German agents tried to take over the Jabłonków Pass, a strategic railway tunnel, in order to help Germany’s invasion of Poland. However, the Germans were fought off by Polish soldiers and the planned invasion was postponed.

On September 1st, the German Luftwaffe started bombing Poland including the town of Katowice, where a young reporter for the Telegraph newspaper called Clare Hollingworth was staying. Clare was a remarkable persona and is known as being the first woman to be a war reporter. Witnessing the bombing raids first hand she tried to alert the authorities but Polish leaders and the Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Warsaw refused to believe her urgent phone calls; after all, negotiations were still ongoing. Later, she saw first-hand thousands of German troops and tanks lined up across the border, facing Poland. It was only when she reported it and the Telegraph ran the story that the British public at large realised what was happening.

1053 miles away from Katowice, the lives of the people Avebury would quickly change.

DGK mentions a news report – which is likely the one by Clare Hollingworth – and writes that war will be declared in the next couple of days. The government thinks, upon declaration of war, the Germans will carry out a huge bombing campaign. Children in the cities are soon transported to the country, and a bus load of 70 children from the East End with their teachers arrives in Avebury. DGK arranges for his parents to join him. By 2nd September, Black Out precautions are put into place.

Avebury, along with the rest of UK, is bracing itself for war.

**

The full extract for Saturday 26 August 1939, from Denis Grant King’s diary, Alexander Keiller Museum Accession Number 1732624-003.

“Saturday, August 26th 1939
Beautiful sunny weather that must remind the older folk of August 1914. It is difficult to believe in the reality of the international crisis, or indeed that the human race lacks the intelligence and good will to compose its differences without recourse to war. Still, the forces which lead nations to war gather momentum in fair weather and in foul; and every intelligent person who has lived and observed events during the past twenty

years would be unduly sanguine if he had not expected another holocaust sometime. The question is, when?

No doubt statesmen will try to put it off as long as possible, that is, as far as delay is consistent with imperial interests. Churchill suggested that the zero hour would occur in August.

Anyway, Alexander Keiller believes that war is imminent and has asked us all to continue work on Saturday afternoon to reveal the “Z arrangement” as much as possible, and complete the records, before the Government calls up all the men.

Another reminder of 1914 came in the person of Commander Gould, R.N., who fought at the Battle of Jutland. He was then on his to way to Bath to take up duties under the Admiralty and called in at the caravan, where Alexander Keiller introduced him to me. He is a six foot man, 18 stone, so he says, clean shaven and grey hair; also very friendly and talkative, giving an account of various talks he had broadcast from the B.B.C., mostly, I understood, of an informative character on a variety of topics.

His object in calling was to leave certain manuscripts of value to be deposited in the Museum, which he considered to be a place of comparative safety. L.V. Grinsell also sent us some of his MMS [manuscripts] for safe keeping.

After Commander Gould said good-bye, Alexander Keiller told me a little about him. It appears that after the War was over, his wife left him, and his distress affected him mentally, so much so that he lost his job and sank into very low water. He then spent ten years perfecting the Harrison chronometer and making it work (which apparently it never did before), for which service the government rewarded him with the paltry sum of £100. One should see his work in the Greenwich Naval Museum. A queer story. One would not have thought that such an immense robust fellow could have been so upset by a little bit of fluff; but that is life!”

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The Whimsical Flimsy

Cataloguing correspondence for the digitisation project may appear to be a dry old business, but in fact it’s often pretty interesting and every now and then it throws up a real gem of a letter.

Below is a copy of a letter which caught our attention this week (typed on ‘flimsy’ paper – thin sheets usually used for carbon copies). It was written by the highly influential OGS Crawford, in response to an article written by Alexander Keiller in The Modern Mystic issue of February 1939. Keiller’s piece in the esoteric magazine discussed the origins of sites including Stonehenge and Avebury.

Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford was – judging by the relatively small amount of his correspondence held in the Avebury archives – a dynamic, progressive, larger-than-life, no-nonsense character. He was an archaeologist and aerial photographer of great renown, and served as Archaeological Officer of the Ordnance Survey in Southampton – the perfect occupation for such a pragmatist.

Crawford’s Wikipedia page gives a flavour of the enormous breadth of his experiences and achievements, but in this archival document we see his rarely glimpsed (and biting) humour in full flow. It is at the same time both an inventive whimsy and an acerbic criticism.

Love it.

A photograph of OGS Crawford, via Wikimedia. Unknown author, copyright Keble College, Oxford.

[Ed’s note from Fran: Crawford’s letter is another example from the archive that documents lively early 20th century debates about public (pseudo)archaeology. A key question for the research team is how far our digital archive can contain writings which satirise or dismiss alternative approaches to Avebury and other neolithic sites, while also opening up space for serious, sensitive, and critical approaches to Avebury’s varied interpretations and uses. We welcome your comments!].


Transcription:

Copy of OGS Crawford’s letter to The Modern Mystic.

Nursling, Southampton,

14th February, 1939.

Dear Sir,

In your February number (p.10) Mr. Keiller, in his admirable article, quotes a statement that, when megalithic monuments like Stonehenge were built, the level of the Baltic and of the North Sea was 400 feet higher than now! (I need hardly say that Mr. Keiller himself is far too sane to attach any importance to such a statement). But it seems at first glance to raise certain difficulties about the construction of Stonehenge. the level of the ground on which Stonehenge stands is about 340 feet above the present level of the sea. A simple calculation shows that it must have then been about 60 feet below the sea!

The explanation of this remarkable fact was mystically revealed to me by no less a person than the chief architect himself, the patriarch Noah. With characteristic frankness he told me of a difficulty that has escaped the notice of all the Biblical critics, and of the ingenious method by which he solved it. The heavy precipitation which resulted in the well-known Flood, consisted, of course, entirely of fresh water; and the fishes who for generations had been born and bred, so to speak, in salt water came to him in great distress, asking his advice. Not being a water expert himself, Noah consulted the Authorities and was told that only strenuous work could save the fish from becoming fossilized. He accordingly devised a scheme by which they should swim across the drowned continent of Eurasia and construct a temple to Jehovah upon the submerged uplands that are now called Salisbury Plain. In order to increase their labour and save them from extinction they were to use only the largest stones, and were to fetch some of them from distant Wales. They were supplied with blue prints by a well-known firm of Sumerian architects, specially drawn on waterproof paper by highly skilled crabs, with ink provided free of charge by cuttle-fish or squids. (It is interesting to note that precisely similar paper is still used by the Ordnance Survey for its small-scale maps). The task was duly carried out, and shortly after 4000 B. C. the temple was formally declared open by a bottle-nosed whale.

In every community, however, there are some recalcitrant individuals who refuse to take good advice, and so there were amongst the fishes. A little group of passive resisters was formed, and they occupied their time swimming round the ark cursing the Authorities. They said they would be fossilized before they would consent to do such menial work, and fossilized they were. When at length the Flood receded, the slopes of Ararat and all the land of Armenia was strewn with huge stone fish. They remain there to this day and may be seen by any who care to visit that country. There is a photograph of one in the Museum at Erivan. They are called VISHAPS and a fully illustrated account of them was recently published (Les Vishaps, by N. Y. Marr & J. I. Smirnov, Leningrad, 1931, reviewed in ANTIQUITY XI, 1937, 122-3).

This explanation is a Revelation in the strict sense of the word. It entirely supersedes the old theory that Stonehenge was built by the Apalachian Indians of North America and dedicated to Apollo*; and of course puts out of court the fantastic conclusions of archaeologists which are invariably built upon the insecure basis of ascertained fact. I might add that Noah informed me that he was always at the disposal of genuine seekers after knowledge, and that his best inspiration came from Chambery No. 5 served with pigs’ trotters, preferably at the Escargot d’Or.

Yours faithfully,

(signed) OGSC

The Editor Modern Mystic 6 Bear Street, Leicester Square, W.C.2

*

W. S. Blacket, Researches into the Lost Histories. of America, 1883, p. 193.

*

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An Avebury Story

By Dushyant Naresh (MSc Digital Archaeology, University of York)

I’ve never really believed in magic, or the supernatural, or a higher power. But I have to admit that there is something undoubtedly magical about Avebury and the prehistoric landscape it is nestled in.

Maybe it’s the size of the stones, or how large the circles are, or the fact that you can walk right up to them and touch them knowing that thousands of years ago, another human being was probably doing the exact same thing, thinking the same thoughts, and feeling this same sense of wonderment. It’s this blurred line between archaeology and emotion that gets the hairs on the back of my neck tingling.

Coincidentally, one core exercise of The Avebury Papers project is to translate some of these emotions into another medium – a “creative intervention” – be it poetry, prose, or something else. I guess you’d call that “art”.

I am the worst artist of all time.

However, I know how to make videos, and I like experimentation. So, for my Master’s dissertation, I went to Avebury with a dodgy microphone and a 360° camera to try and capture a mixture of both archaeology and emotion. I then created a “choose your own adventure” style immersive story using the videos I shot, allowing viewers to pick what kind of anecdote or theme they were interested in experiencing. This was all programmed and downloaded onto a VR headset for a full immersive experience, and tested with dozens of participants.

Some people liked the project, and many others didn’t. That’s the nature of any creative endeavour, and is what makes the whole process exciting. I hope to go back to Avebury soon to reignite that sense of curiosity and create something new, and hopefully, divisive.

If you haven’t visited Avebury, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, if you’d like to experience it virtually, you can watch/play An Avebury Story on YouTube.