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Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered

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Author Topic: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered  (Read 1323 times)
Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #60 on: January 12, 2009, 01:11:55 am »

p. 96

CHAPTER X
THE MAY AND JUNE WORSHIPS IN BRITTANY

I PURPOSE next to inquire whether in the wonderful series of Megalithic remains in Brittany, remains more extensive than any in Britain, any light is thrown on the suggestion I have made that the May Worship preceded the Solstitial Worship at Stonehenge.

It has long been known that the stones which compose the prehistoric remains in Brittany are generally similar in size and shape to those at Stonehenge, but, as I have already stated, in one respect there is a vast difference.

Instead of a few, arranged in circles as at Stonehenge, we have an enormous multitude of the so-called menhirs arranged in many parallel lines for great distances. Some of these are unhewn like the Friar's Heel, some have as certainly been trimmed.

The literature which has been devoted to them is very considerable, but the authors of it, for the most part, have taken little or no pains to master the few elementary astronomical principles which are necessary to regard the monuments from the point of view of orientation.

It is consoling to know that this cannot be said of the last published contribution to our knowledge of this region, which we owe to Monsieur F. Gaillard, a member

p. 97

of the Paris Anthropological Society and of the Polymathic Society of Morbihan at Plouharnel. 1

M. Gaillard is a firm believer in the orientation theory, and accepts the view that a very considerable number of the alignments are solstitial. But although he gives the correct azimuths for the solstitial points and also figures showing the values of the obliquity of the ecliptic as far as 2200 B.C., his observations are not sufficiently precise to enable a final conclusion to be drawn, and his method of fixing the alignments and the selection of the index menhir are difficult to gather from his memoir and the small plans which accompany it, which, alas! deal with compass bearings only.

All the same, those interested in such researches owe a debt of gratitude to M. Gaillard for his laborious efforts to increase our knowledge, and will sympathise with hint at the manner in which his conclusions were treated by the Paris anthropologists. One of them, apparently thinking that the place of sun rising is affected by the precession of the equinoxes, used this convincing argument:—"Si, à l’origine les alignments étaient orientés, comme le pense M. Gaillard, ils ne le pourraient plus être aujourdhui; au contraire, s’ils le sont actuellement, on peut affirmer qu’ils ne l’étaient pas alors!"

M. Gaillard is not only convinced of the solstitial orientation of the avenues, but finds the same result in the case of the dolmens.

I cannot find any reference in the text to any orientations dealing with the farmers' years, that is with amplitudes


p. 98

of about 25° N. and S. of the E. and W. points; but in the diagrams on pp. 78 and 127 I find both avenue and dolmen alignments, which within the limits of accuracy apparently employed may perhaps with justice be referred to them; but observations of greater accuracy must be made, and details of the heights of the horizon at the various points given, before anything certain can be said about them.

I append a reproduction of one of M. Gaillard's plans, which will give an idea of his use of the index Menhir. It shows the alignments at Le Ménec, lat. 47½° (Fig. 26). The line A—Soleil runs across the stone alignments and is fixed from A by the menhir B, but there does not seem any good reason for selecting B except that it appears to fall in the line of the solstitial azimuth according to M. Gaillard. But if we take this azimuth as N. 54° E., then we find the alignments to have an azimuth roughly of N. 66° E., which gives us the amplitude of 24° N. marking the place of sunrise at the beginning of the May and November years, and the alignments may have dealt principally with those times of the year.

I esteem it a most fortunate thing that while I have been casting about as to the best way of getting more accurate data, Lieutenant Devoir, of the French Navy and therefore fully equipped with all the astronomical knowledge necessary; who resides at Brest and has been studying the prehistoric monuments in his neighbourhood for many years, has been good enough to give me the results of his work in that region, in which the problems seem to be simpler than further south; for while in the vicinity of Carnac the menhirs were erected in groups numbering five or six thousand, near Brest, lat. 48½°, they

p. 99

are much more restricted in number. I am much indebted to him for permission to use and publish his results. Lieutenant Devoir, by his many well-planned and

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