Stones Selected Shaped Carved
Stan Burg Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2013
328 pp., CD Included, illus. (tot. 199) 88 col/111 b & w. Paper, Ł76.99
Reviewed by Jason Paul Stansbie, Research
University of Plymouth
I have a keen interest in the
Neolithic, and as a hobbyist archaeologist I love nothing more than investigating
large stone circles. Living in Birmingham for many years
meant that I had the privilege of visiting one of the best know henges, Avebury, many, many times.
Upon receiving Di Patterson’s book, Avebury
Stones, Selected, Shaped, Carved, I have been delighted to see the hidden magnificence
within these magnificent familiars.
Visiting Avebury, two types of people can be seen in
the circles. The first is the tourist; these individuals usually spend a little
time walking amongst the stones, maybe touch a few of them and then depart.
However, the second group tend to spend many hours communing with the stones,
inspecting them, feeling them, lying on them, dowsing, etc. Many have claimed to see the ‘spirit’ or
personality of the stone to emerge; Di Pattison appears to belong to this
Pattison’ s book comprises of 33
chapters, six sections and a CD holding explanatory notes, additional research,
discussion of interpretation of imagery and colour photos, a stone by stone
history and glossary; this is an extensive and large piece of work – not only
in depth but also physicality. The book also comprises two excellent
introductions with inclusive figures and diagrams; supportive colour
photography, a deep reflective conclusion,
a robust bibliography, and a selection of websites for reference; Avebury Stones is a professionally
constructed book that overall meets its aims and
misses only a well constructed index.
Pattison’s book is a beautiful piece of work with the following aim:
“This is the first book to examine the possible reason why Avebury’s
stones were chosen; to determine whether and where deliberate shaping and
carving took place and if so to understand precisely how this was done; to
identify the entire corpus of shaped and carved stones; to enable others to
distinguish the ancient worked surfaces from the unworked,
the damaged ones and those containing natural images.” (p. 11)
To achieve these aims, Pattison breaks
the book into six sections thus:
Part 1 examines the sarsen stones in various
comparative contexts preparing the way for the study of the shaped and dressed
Part 2 prepares the reader to distinguish between on-site artefactual making
and those of destruction and accident.
Part 3 considers further reasons for the selection of Sarsen
Part 4 & 5 focus on the corpus of carvings, pulling in chalk carvings at Windmill
Hill and exploring the nature of megalithic imagery.
Part 6 presents Keiller’s drawings, assessing the
likely extent to which the underground portions of formerly buried stones might
be artificially shaped.
When reviewing this work, I was instantly struck by
the beauty of the collective pages. The book holds just short of 200 images,
some figures, others supportive colour photographs, that help to illuminate the
“This book demonstrates in detail that the majority of megaliths now standing
at Avebury henge and in the
avenue plus others at the long barrow were worked, a number very intensively,
by people who had no metal tools yet who could nevertheless shape this exceptionally
hard local rock, called Sarsen, dress or refine and
in other ways alter the surface appearance and carve it.” (p. 7)
achieves an expert introduction, setting the scene for art in the landscape and
asserts that Avebury is, in fact, a massive land-art
complex that incorporates Stone Henge, the Sanctuary,
West Kennet long-barrow and the Avenue, with Sarsen
stones chosen, shaped and dressed to achieve particular effects.
To cement this argument, Pattison presents many compelling figures and
supportive photographs that once seen are obvious, for instance, the horned
head (p.196), large faces (p. 201, 205, 266, 267), stones that seem to be
talking to each other (p. 266) and stones carved in the shape of animals (p.
269) Pattison’s central theme running through this work is that of tool marks
upon the stones, something that she provides expert evidence to support.
Moving onto the CD accompanying this book, an astonishing amount of technical
data is contained with colour photographs also appearing on the disk. This information
is a great accompaniment to the main text and adds a real depth to the work
conducted by Pattison.
However, I do feel that the professionalism exhibited within the book has not
followed into the production of the CD. The web-interface to the CD, I feel,
lacks a polished finish although this does not distract from the content upon
the disk. This lack of usability, I feel, is a shame and detracts from the package
as a whole. Colour photos are presented with titles such as ‘figure 1 - West
Kennet avenue from Waden
Hill’, ‘figure 4 - Embankment and ditch near eastern portal’ and ‘figure 6 - Silbury Hill’. However, referencing the book, these figures
do not resemble the figures in the main body of the work. With this issue aside,
the CD does contain a vast amount of other information that lends weight and
depth to the book. I do, however, feel that this work could have been better
organised with a more polished interface. Also I feel that the CD could have
presented each of the stones photographed so that the reader could have zoomed
in to see more detail of the marks mentioned throughout the main book –
something I hope will appear in future additions.
Overall, I feel that this text achieves its aims even with the quality of the
CD detracting a little from a polished product. However, I cannot fault the
main text and the depth of research, evidence and archaeology presented within
the pages. Pattison makes a strong case for the reader to look at the stones in
a new light.
This book will, I feel, appeal to many people from the enthusiastic new-ager,
the hobbyist archaeologist, the coffee table reader, and the spiritual seeker.
I also feel that this is a book that I will have to read many times to discover
the subtleties within its pages, a task that I look forward to greatly.