Thursday, January 11, 2007

Outside the Wyre: Stone Faces

Editor's note: The following article was written and posted by John Steventon, an old friend and cartooning colleague of ours from New Jersey. New Jersey, we realise, is a long way from the Wyre, but John has shown more interest in our local history and archaeology over the years than most people I meet on a daily basis. So, here's to his first posting and let's hope there'll be many more.

There are some convinced of 'new discoveries' concerning Stonehenge, Avebury, and other of Britain's ancient megalithic monuments. They claim that ancient peoples have carved faces onto the stones of these monuments, and one of these has even made BBC news.

Now, as an artist, I am all too familiar with the brain's ability to seek patterns amongst chaos. This is the way the brain develops, and the human face is the first of these patterns that we learn, as our parents lean over us to offer comfort. As a child I often lost hours of sleep because of the imagined faces I saw everywhere, particularly in my bedroom curtains.

With this in mind, the subject is one worth investigating, although with the proper amount of skepticism.

At this website , you can see examples of these alleged faces at Stonehenge and Avebury. I am not at all convinced of the validity of the faces on the Avebury stones, but the one at Stonehenge does kind of look like other examples of ancient carved faces, and remind one of the most famous of these, the faces of Easter Island.

I have been to Stonehenge on several occasions now, and on my last visit went looking for these ancient faces, and yes, I actually discovered a new one!

Looking at this image, you can clearly see the brows, the eyes, nose, mouth, and even an ear. The light happened to be just right to cast these features in relief, and indeed, this is an argument as to why these faces haven't been noticed before. There are also the more widely known carvings of ancient daggers on one of the stones, which again was not noticed until recent times. The light needs to be jsut right for these carvings to stand out.

So, does my own mind convince me that these carvings are valid, and ancient?

I am not sure. Certainly I see the faces, but are they deliberate, or just the mind creating order from chaos, 'seeing' what isn't there?

The stones of Stonehenge, unlike those of Avebury, were supposedly smooth and polished at the monument's original creation, which would mean the faces, if valid, where placed later. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to date a carving exactly. Perhaps there are those who study material science who could give an estimate, due to weathering, of a carvings date?

There is also the crudeness of the carvings to consider. Why aren't the features more defined and deliberate? We know the ancient peoples of the area were craftsmen, so it stands to reason that they would be more deliberate in their work.

The above mentioned website offers as proof the fact that the faces at Avebury are facing important sunrises, making their placement, at least, deliberate. A good observation, and worthy of consideration.

So, what do YOU think? Has anyone else observed anything similar to these faces? Could they be deliberate creations to enhance these ancient monuments, or might they be the graffiti of later visitors who felt the need to contribute to these wonders? Or perhaps a wandering artist left his or her touch for us later generations to consider?

Or maybe it's just a trick of the light, and an active imagination?

Either way, it's amazing the power these ancient wonders can hold over us, and I heartily encourage anyone to take the time to visit these places. Being there in person is such an experience that mere photographs just cannot capture. When standing on the windy Salisbury plains, you can almost feel something special in the air, and it is no wonder at all why these ancient peoples chose to build Stonehenge where they did, on a stretch of land that has remained unchanged for thousands of years.

Let us know what you think. Cheers, John Steventon

PS Thank you to Brian and Michelle for allowing me to post at this site!

1 comment:

Brian Hughes said...


Thankyou for posting. This means I can have the week off to pursue other, any time you feel like adding another article, feel free.