Avebury shares its second secret - the faces of the gods. Or not

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The Independent Online
THE DISCOVERY last week of a long-buried avenue of standing stones at Avebury, the 4,500-year-old megalithic monument in Wiltshire, sent archaeologists into raptures. Scientific and not-so-scientific theories about what the massive complex of standing stones actually means have been hastily dusted off. Cosmic calendar? Ancient pagan temple? Signal to cruising space aliens? Attempts to decipher the stones have defeated investigators for hundreds of years. Yet the answer, according to a former professor of physics, Terence Meaden, has been, er, staring us in the face all along.

Avebury is actually a giant, open air art gallery dedicated to the great Mother Goddess, claims Professor Meaden in a new book. Nearly all the stones, he says, depict human faces. Rather like the great statues on Easter Island in the Pacific, in fact ... except not quite so obvious. If you look very closely - at certain angles in certain lights at certain times on certain days of the year - you can see the heads, not just at Avebury, but also at Stonehenge and at West Kennet long barrow, also in Wiltshire. The sculptors also included some animals, such as sheep and snakes.

According to Professor Meaden, the ancient artists always included an eye on their heads. Some also have a nose, a mouth, an ear and a cranium. Three examples photographed by the professor at Avebury are shown above. While some, in the right light, do appear to have a certain grandeur, others, like the one above right, look more like cartoon characters.

Professor Meaden, who has spent years taking 500 photographs of the "carvings", says their significance is religious, and associated with a "Mother Goddess" cult - other carvings, he claims, represent female reproductive organs. The fact that many more of the "heads" seem to face to the left rather than the right proves, he says, that they are more than the random result of erosion by wind and rain. He also claims that "everything that is feminine" has a "left-handed nature".

Whether tricks of the light have a feminine or a masculine nature, he does not say.

Photographs taken from "The Secrets of the Avebury Stones" by Terence Meaden, Souvenir Press, pounds 12.99.