THE BECKHAMPTON COVE, AVEBURY - an archaeoacoustics experiment

This project originally began as a proposal to experiment with the acoustics of the Beckhampton Cove by building three moveable plywood panels to the approximate size of the missing stones, and placing them on site to replicate the original setting.

Of the western avenue leading from the Avebury henge only two stones remain. Known as 'The Longstones' the two have also been named 'Adam & Eve'. The avenue was a long, curving double row of stones, of which Eve is the only survivor; Adam is the only remaining stone of the Beckhampton Cove. Coves are a little-understood feature of some Neolithic henge monuments. Roughly rectilinear, some coves appear to have been made up of three stones, with one open side; the Beckhampton Cove had four. It is particularly unusual in that the two side stones were splayed.

Aubrey Burl has suggested (WAM, 1988) that coves may be representations of the stone chambers found inside some long barrows. If ancestor or initiation rituals were once performed inside the barrows then few people could be present, due to the lack of space. Perhaps using a cove instead allowed a bigger audience to witness or participate in the the ritual?

Such an arrangement of stones may also have had acoustic effects, with resonances or flutter echo. Perhaps the splayed sides of the Beckhampton Cove may have projected sound out from the cove?


Recent excavation as part of the Longstones Project has revealed the original position of the cove stones:

The plans come from the Longstones Project Interim Report: DOWNLOAD REPORT

For more information about the Longstones and the rest of the Avebury complex, see this excellent website: AVEBURY A PRESENT FROM THE PAST


N 51 deg 25' 21.6"
W 1 deg 52' 24.4"

OS grid ref: SU 08897 69309

Weighing some 62 tons, Adam is a huge slab of sarsen stone 1m thick. It has been set with its smoothest face to the inside of the cove, suggesting that sound reflection may have been part of its original purpose.

Although the face is far from being flat, with many depressions up to 10 cm deep, it reflects sound extremely well. Standing 20m in front of the stone and clicking a pair of claves produces a loud and clear echo.


This page was first put up on 24/6/09 and posted to the Yahoo Archaeoacoustics Group.

After some discussion and computer modelling, a physical model was built - with exciting results!



Text & photographs copyright Steve Marshall 2009. All rights reserved.