The Avebury Cycle

by Michael Dames. Thames and Hudson, $12.95. Mr. Dames was trained in archaeology and geography, is a painter, and has been senior lecturer in the history of art at Birmingham Polytechnic. This combination of interests has led him not only to take great interest in the excavations carried on at Silbury Hill and its adjacent Neolithic structures, the Avebury Henge and the West Kennet Long Barrow, but to attempt a reconstruction of the religious symbolism which inspired these creations and of the ceremonies conducted there. He cannot, of course, offer courtroom-style proof of his hypotheses, which depend basically on a fusion of aesthetics and imaginative sympathy, but the explanation he works out is consistent with the topography of the site, with discoveries at other Neolithic sites, and with anthropological reports of Stone Age agricultural societies still surviving in the world. It is, in short, impressive and persuasive. If one hesitates to say flatly that Mr. Dames is right, still less can one presume to say that he is wrong. Certainly he is provocative. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index, maps.