"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Avebury, Megalithic Art and the Evidence

Everybody loves a good mystery and ancient megalithic sites contain many secrets. But who really wants the true purpose of these stones to be revealed? The solution of prehistoric riddles brings little short-term gain.

Quite the contrary, any sensible interpretation of sites such as the “Avebury Henge” may even threaten vested interests that make a living from ancient studies and related disciplines. For example, old-school Archaeology (read Imre Lakatos) is antiquated methodologically and simply outdated.

Why have mainstream approaches made only small progress in understanding prehistoric megaliths?

One reason is that research involves picture-based "megalithic art" -- an art composed of figures and markings on stones. Some figures and markings are clear. Others are unclear, so that identification raises subjectivity issues and makes interpretation problematical.

Detail-trained persons such as watchmakers, medical image or miniature art specialists – not archaeologists -- should independently trace (and check) lines, markings and figures on megalithic photographs to arrive at some common base of discussion.

Even then, if figures and markings are apparent, disputes can still arise as to whether these are man-made or natural. Moreover, one must consider that some stones are partly defaced by modern graffiti.

One stone is not enough! The evidentiary process of identification and interpretation of figures and markings as astronomy depends upon internal proof that such figures and markings are part of an ancient “system of notation”. That system must be apparent on individual stones at the site, at neighboring megalithic sites, or even as part of a "megalithic plan" involving more distant megalithic locations. If, for example, figures and markings on a given stone are said to mark a certain region of stars in the sky, then the marking of neighboring stones must “fit” logically to the stars so identified, and must mark systematically predictable stars in the sky, so that the entire system can and must -- in essence -- “prove itself” internally. Avebury does so.

Of course, other proofs are also possible, such as artefacts similar in artistic design to the materials under discussion.

For example, the otherwise virtually unknown Accession Number 60.145.11 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City was found online after our completion of the decipherment of Avebury Stone #10, a stone which has a similar motif on its left side (left as seen henge-outward).

Accession Number "60.145.11" is pictured below in our own illustrative approximate drawing and will be discussed subsequently in examining the left side of Avebury Stone #10.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Accesss. No. 60.145.11
(This author’s approximate outline drawing in black and white)
"Neo-Assyrian Nubian Tribute Bearer" + Leopard Skin, Monkey, Oryx

The above-pictured Accession Number 60.145.11 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City of a so-called "Neo-Assyrian Nubian Tribute Bearer" + Leopard Skin, Monkey, and Oryx (it may actually depict a calendration "high priest", as the priests wore leopard skins) is further of interest because the Egyptian god Seth was pictured as a canine, but more anciently as an oryx. See http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/horus.htm#ixzz3Fm4mqKrv

We thus found this arguably related woodcut image labeled "A huntsman carrying home the game, with his coupled dogs [“hounds”]. Thebes." in Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of The Ancient Egyptians, Volume 3, John Murray: London, 1837, plate 322, p. 13 at https://archive.org/details/mannerscustoms03wilk (clipped and tweaked):

The megalithic style of art by which "real" hand-worked megaliths can be distinguished from natural stones is the "prehistoric style of relief carving composition", whereby smaller figures are drawn within larger figures, i.e. a figure within a figure within a figure. Indeed, smaller figures were often carved within larger ones to the smallest degree. There are sometimes many more figures carved on the stones than we actually mark, because otherwise the larger figures would be virtually blotted out in our drawings.

There is no guarantee that these figures were all astronomical. However, we think that many are, conforming to a principle of hermeticism of Hermes Trismegistus, famously known, "as above, so below", whereby the ancients used the readily available "map" of the stars above to navigate and mark their way on Earth, both in terms of space (navigation, territorial viz. geographic orientation) and time (calendration).

The prehistoric artistic method thus used is reflected in the ancient mythology contained in the Latvian Dainas (http://www.lexiline.com/lexiline/lexi54.htm) and Teikas (http://www.lexiline.com/lexiline/lexi81.htm), with similar mythology also found among the other Baltic peoples, the Lithuanians and Estonians. Proto-European prehistoric peoples wished to "fill" stones with life, for the ancients were puzzled that "stones did not grow" as other things in nature did. Modernly, of course, "life" or "not life" is similarly still the "essential" difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. Our understanding has become more sophisticated over the millennia, but the basic essence of primordial questions about life remains.

The ancients first selected a stone (or separated it away from a larger source at a quarry) that had the approximate size and the shape that they wanted to have. In some cases that stone also had to have a particular color or texture (e.g. the blue speckled Preselli "Moon stones", chosen for their speckles -- so we allege -- for their similarity to the starry sky at night).

Subsequently, the ancients carved the large stone into a somewhat finer large figure. That shape could be e.g. a human head (often more than one), but it could also include animal heads and shapes. One presumes that such carved figures or heads were intended to represent the stone makers themselves, or other persons or VIPs in the community and family.

On that overall surface, the ancients then carved more figures representing large star groups, adding markings for the stars that represented those figures. These markings were often very faint lines outlining the shapes of carved shapes and variously sized holes, viz. cupmarks (cupules) representing the stars. On weathered stones, lichens sometimes cover shallower indentations in the stone, which are thus still apparent to the naked eye, but proving that such indentations were intentionally made is of course difficult.

As a general rule, the larger the hole or cupmark (cupule), the brighter the magnitude of the star. Weathering, however, can have changed the size of holes, so absolute conclusions here can not be made. Accordingly, the general difference in the size of markings can only be taken as a rough guideline for the magnitude of the stars that the ancients portrayed.

The ancients were sometimes also drawn to geometrically-shaped groupings or "swarms" of faintly visible stars, and also to geometric shapes in the void spaces between star groups.

The result is sometimes that initially insignificant-appearing smaller "details" carved on the stones can serve as critical evidence for the correctness of the identification of larger figures being portrayed. It all has to fit, like a puzzle.

Also the shape of the Milky Way can be marked on stone.

The front side of Avebury Stone #10, for example, provides us with excellent examples of the importance of examining details.
  • First, there is the strange shape of the stone.
  • Then there is the unexpected shape of a leg and a foot on the lower half.
  • A significant color difference exists between the top and the bottom of the stone on the back side. As we discovered, this was not chance, but was used by the ancients on the back side to portray a respective portion of the Milky Way.
  • Initial tracings of Avebury Stone #10 showed head-like shapes toward the bottom of the megalith. Once an initial hypothesis about the stars represented on the stone had been made, it then became quite clear that these shapes were intended to mark the edge of the Milky Way.
One "deciphered" stone side is not enough. One can sometimes find any number of alleged figures on a given stone – but are they really there at all, or if present, are they there by human design, and are they significant for astronomy? We thus proceed to examine further markings on other sides of that same stone and on neighboring stones. The probative value of any stone depends upon the weight of "the preponderance of the evidence" as provided by additional pieces of evidence.

For example, we identify markings on the front side of Avebury Stone #10 to mark the position of the Summer Solstice in ca. 3000 to 2500 B.C. in the stars (not the same as Solstice or Equinox risings). That location in the stars turns out to be Leo. Stars on that solstice colure (line) and stars neighboring Leo are also marked on the stone. We recognize that one such identification standing by itself means nothing as a matter of probative evidence. However, it gives us a point of reference: we have a starting point.

If the remaining sides of the stone as well as neighboring stones fit into this initially suggested system, then the preponderance of evidence could be considered to be overwhelming – and it is.

Starting at the next posting, we turn to the left side of Avebury Stone #10.