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The Avebury Cycle [Paperback]

Michael Dames
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.95
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Book Description

9 April 1996
Avebury parish in Wiltshire contains an amazing collection of Stone Age monuments. Four thousand years ago this stretch of the chalk downs was the metropolis of Britain, with the tallest man-made hill (Silbury), the largest henge or sacred enclosure (Avebury), the great chambered cemetery of West Kennet Long Barrow and the two stone avenues of West Kennet and Beckhampton. This new edition, which takes into account recent discoveries, explores the mystery of the Avebury monuments and reveals their collective purpose. Making use of archaeology, ethnography and folklore the book argues that the monuments were key elements in the worship of the Great Goddess, each representing different aspects of the annual fertility cycle corresponding to the agricultural year.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 2nd Revised edition edition (9 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500278865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500278864
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.1 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 673,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avebury and the Goddess 3 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase
This book expands further upon many of the points put forward in Michael Dames' first book, "The Silbury Treasure, The Great Goddess Rediscovered". It carries on the theme of the Goddess symbolism of the Neolithic age being behind the ancient constructions found at Avebury. As the first book focussed on Silbury Hill, this book takes in the entire Avebury landscape and associated man-made monuments, such as the famous Avebury Henge (the largest in Europe) and West Kennet Long Barrow. The main thesis of this book, as the name suggests, is that there was a cycle of activity, in harmony with nature, that caused a beautiful and extremely well-thought-out interconnection between all of these man-made monuments and the surrounding landscape. As in the Silbury book, there is a great emphasis on the idea that ancient man had a sense of the unity between the spiritual and the physical, between the outer and the inner, which people living in the modern world have for the most part completely abandoned for a disturbingly more dualistic view of the world. The ancients, as Mr. Dames eloquently argues, did not see themselves as merely connected to nature, their divine mother - they saw themselves and her as an indivisible unity.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A haven for Hags? 31 Jan 2006
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Let's be fair - a New Age book is a fun read. Bold assertions, sweeping pronouncements, assumptions offered grounded on faith grip the reader's attention. Such confidence must have some underlying justification, right? New Age books have one great virtue. They challenge "established" thinking with intriguing questions demanding valid answers. Dames' book fits well into the genre. It's an entertaining venture, filled with interesting ideas, vivid illustrations and based on the idea that remnants of the Neolithic world remain a part of modern life.
The photograph of John Barleycorn celebrants on page 17 sets both the theme and the tone of this book. Why, asks Dames, is this bunch of rummies wearing those outlandish costumes, sloshed beyond reason, tunelessly singing some arcane melody? Dames uses this image as a launch site to examine ancient rituals and explain their origins. His focus is evidence derived from various burial sites and henge monuments. For him, all these are indications of the dominance of the Hag Goddess supposedly prevalent in many Neolithic cultures. Stone shape and placement, relative positions, accumulated debris and other evidence all points to a society dominated by rituals honouring the Earth Mother.
Dames doesn't just propose the Earth Goddess as the basis for Neolithic structures of widely varying design, he simply assumes it at the outset. From that start he's able to dovetail an overwhelming number of graves, skeletal postures, barrow shape, location and orientation into his thesis. Even the watercourses of the local streams have ritual significance. He puts each artefact or other element before you with such confidence and enthusiasm, it's hard to resist.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing together the pieces 22 Jun 2011
By O'Malley - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Dames makes a strong case that Avebury Circle, Silbury Hill, West Kennet Barrow - and numerous other late Neolithic sites in the Avebury area are all part of a grand design celebrating the annual cycle of birth and death so prevalent in agricultural societies both past and present. He also shows that, while not literate, these people were highly numerate and this shows up in the sizing and placement of the various structures. While one can never prove such ideas completely, this is a well researched exposition looking into the role of the (White) Goddess in early British culture. I didn't find it "New Agey", but rather, "archaeology-plus", or well-directed anthropology.
Apparently some people are uncomfortable with anything more than the hard cold facts. But intelligence requires we order these facts into some kind of working hypothesis. Dames book builds on the work of many, many other experts and synthesizes them into a believable and compelling order. Anyone looking for a more comprehensive view of what the society that created these amazing, durable Neolithic structures valued and believed will gain much from this work. You don't have to buy his hypothesis 100% to learn a great deal. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Avebury and the Goddess 3 Sep 2012
By L. Llewellyn - Published on Amazon.com
This book expands further upon many of the points put forward in Michael Dames' first book, The Silbury Treasure. It carries on the theme of the Goddess symbolism of the Neolithic age being behind the ancient constructions found at Avebury. As the first book focussed on Silbury Hill, this book takes in the entire Avebury landscape and associated man-made monuments, such as the famous Avebury Henge (the largest in Europe) and West Kennet Long Barrow. The main thesis of this book, as the name suggests, is that there was a cycle of activity, in harmony with nature, that caused a beautiful and extremely well-thought-out interconnection between all of these man-made monuments and the surrounding landscape. As in the Silbury book, there is a great emphasis on the idea that ancient man had a sense of the unity between the spiritual and the physical, between the outer and the inner, which people living in the modern world have for the most part completely abandoned for a disturbingly more dualistic view of the world. The ancients, as Mr. Dames eloquently argues, did not see themselves as merely connected to nature, their divine mother - they saw themselves and her as an indivisible unity.
3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A haven for Hags? 27 April 2003
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Let's be fair - a New Age book is a fun read. Bold assertions, sweeping pronouncements, assumptions offered grounded on faith grip the reader's attention. Such confidence must have some underlying justification, right? New Age books have one great virtue. They challenge "established" thinking with intriguing questions demanding valid answers. Dames' book fits well into the genre. It's an entertaining venture, filled with interesting ideas, vivid illustrations and based on the idea that remnants of the Neolithic world remain a part of modern life.
The photograph of John Barleycorn celebrants on page 17 sets both the theme and the tone of this book. Why, asks Dames, is this bunch of rummies wearing those outlandish costumes, sloshed beyond reason, tunelessly singing some arcane melody? Dames uses this image as a launching site to examine ancient rituals and explain their origins. His focus is evidence derived from various burial sites and henge monuments. For him, all these are indications of the dominance of the Hag Goddess supposedly prevalent in many Neolithic cultures. Stone shape and placement, relative positions, accumulated debris and other evidence all points to a society dominated by rituals honouring the Earth Mother.
Dames doesn't just propose the Earth Goddess as the basis for Neolithic structures of widely varying design, he simply assumes it at the outset. From that start he's able to dovetail an overwhelming number of graves, skeletal postures, barrow shape, location and orientation into his thesis. Even the watercourses of the local streams have ritual significance. He puts each artefact or other element before you with such confidence and enthusiasm, it's hard to resist. If you take his presentation at face value, it's easy to become enmeshed in the image he builds of fertility rites, sacrifices and homage to deities. No-one dies of old age or disease in Dames world. Nor, it would seem, is there any place for males, either in the society or the heavens [This was tested using the photograph on page 35 where one observer saw a phallic symbol and the other a subdued Hag Goddess.].
Although Dames asserts in one place that the Avebury Cycle is a cooking ritual, he later deems it the annual fertility rite. Perhaps he was swept up in his own rhetoric while building toward the culmination of his inspiration. For Dames isn't content with the spread of similar rites and behaviours over a scattered collection of communities. There's a bigger surprise in store, which he graphically produces at the end of the book. It turns out that not only is the Earth Goddess commonly worshipped throughout the Neolithic world, she has her own image for airborne viewers to perceive. A nine by twenty kilometre area of the Wessex Chalk Downs has been configured around streams, henges, stone monuments and various grave sites to outline the Goddess to all who can achieve the altitude - or develop the imagination. It's a breathtaking proposal - one that would give the ghosts of the Inca carvers of the Nazca Plain a tinge of envy. Except the Inca, at least, made their images unmistakable.
Dames' book is a frolic for those not in the archaeologist's guild. If you accept his opening assumption, the rest of the book is easy to swallow. Evidence as limited as the Neolithic age has left us is easy to interpret. Shade from proper lighting, pointing out what's there - when it is - strong assertions all lead the unwary to follow Dames sweeping assumptions. But a closer look even at the evidence he provides leaves one in doubt. Two low hills bracing a gully immediately become "breasts". Try it with any two low hills in your area. Dames selection would be laughed at by any Playmate. It doesn't bear thinking what a Neolithic wife might say. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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