This is virtually my favourite walk into the past

29/06/2018 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’m fortunate enough to live 10 miles from the largest stone circle in the world, also known as Avebury. This ancient structure of raised banks and deep ditches surrounding giant stones formed into three circles, two spaced neatly inside the largest one, is just mind-blowing.  Most people today assume that it was built for ceremonial purposes but, honestly, no one really knows what happened there.

To enter Avebury Stone Circle, to walk, touch and meditate among the stones, is a very special thing: calming or exhilarating depending on your mood. The circle seems to have the ability to amplify whatever feelings you bring to it. Many of the stones are bigger than people, all uniquely shaped, and each one evokes intriguing insights. I feel blissed out every time I go there.

 

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However, I have never fully been able to imagine the circle in its entirety, because there is a picturesque village sitting in the middle of it. There is a busy road bisecting it. And during the 4,500 years since it was first built, there have been many attempts to destroy it. Stones have systematically been removed and used for building work. Luckily though,  enough remains to keep the aura of mystery and magnificence intact.

Then, last week, I was lucky enough to try out a 3D, fully immersive virtual simulation of Avebury stone circle, thanks to a neighbour, Liz Falconer. Liz has a good number of academic qualifications which can be summed up by this rather cool description: she is a professor of virtual reality. Liz and her colleagues have created a computer simulation of Avebury as it would have been when it was first built. The stones are intact, the ditches are deeper and steeper, the grass grows long and the wind whispers through it. An occasional wolf howls in the distance. Drums beat and you get the feeling that something amazing is about to happen – or perhaps is already happening, just beyond vision.

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The picturesque village and the road that bisects the circle are not present – they lie in the far, misty future. So when you walk, or fly (this is after all virtual reality) into the stone circle, you can absolutely understand how huge this place really is.

You can see some videos of virtual Avebury on Liz’s blog.  But to experience the fully immersive version, just head over to the National Trust’s Barn Gallery at Avebury on certain days during July and August, and try it out for yourself. Please do check dates on the project page on Bournemouth University’s website first before you go, to make sure the simulation will be available on your chosen day. I really hope you get to see it. And if your virtual exploration gives you new insights into what Avebury is really about, please be sure to share them with the rest of us.

 

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