3. The Study

3.1 Introduction

Parker Pearson and Ramilisonina (1998) offer one of the more interesting and encompassing interpretations of the area. They use a Madagascan ethnographical parallel to suggest that the area has a binary division between lands of the living and of the ancestors; each of these lands is denoted by the materials used to construct their monuments: wood for the living and stone for the dead. Although the model has been criticised for assuming some materials carry universal meanings and for its simple structuralist logic (Pollard and Reynolds 2002, 122), its ideas of zoning still have value in considering the questions in hand, not least because of its close parallels to the nearby Stonehenge area. Thus, this article uses as a point of departure the idea that the older monuments, such as long barrows and causewayed enclosures, represent ancestral structures of deep time to the people of the later Neolithic. In the later Neolithic, focus moves from the higher ground to the valleys and the newer monuments, such as Silbury Hill, the avenues and the stone and post circle enclosures: representing monuments of the living.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Map of Avebury area showing the paths that will be followed. Green circles represent the best approach from the south, Pewsey and Salisbury Plain, passing Knap Hill causewayed enclosure. Blue circles represent the approach from the east, following the River Kennet. Pink dots represent the path to be followed across the Avebury area.

It should be noted that Gillings et al. (2008, 141-42) question whether the avenues were really processional ways for people, or whether they were in fact processional ways for the spirits, barriers to divide the landscape into different areas of meaning, or projects of labour to bring people together through common toil and memorialise events. That the avenues enter Avebury henge in an untidy way and that the central section of the West Kennet Avenue may be missing or consist of only a single row of stones might support these alternative views. Yet it is more likely that the avenues did not have a single explanation and that they were seen in many ways over the years, and indeed, at any one time. There is no reason why the meaning of the avenues should not have often changed depending upon the context of the event that was being experienced.


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