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Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2009, 11:50:07 pm »



AMPLITUDES AT THEBES AND STONEHENGE.



The amplitude is always the complement of the azimuth, so that amplitude + azimuth = 90°. Later on I shall give amplitudes for latitudes higher than that of Stonehenge, so that still more northerly monuments can be considered.


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Footnotes
1:1 "Baugeschichte des Dendera-Tempels." 1877.

3:1 "Archæologia," vol. lviii.



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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2009, 11:50:56 pm »

p. 12

CHAPTER II
THE ASTRONOMICAL DIVISIONS OF THE YEAR

IT is next important to deal with the yearly path of the sun, with a view of studying the relation of the various points of the horizon occupied by the sun at different times in the year. In the very early observations that were made in Egypt, Chaldæa and elsewhere, when the sun was considered to be a god who every morning got into his boat and floated across space, there was no particular reason for considering the amplitude at which the boat left, or came to, shore. But a few centuries showed that this rising or setting of the sun in widely varying amplitudes at different times of the year at the same place obeyed a very definite law.

In its northward passage it reaches the highest point at our summer solstice, and then goes down again till it reaches its greatest southern declination, as it does in our winter. At both these points the sun appears to stand still in its north or south movement, and the Latin word solstice exactly expresses that idea. The change of declination brought about by these movements will affect the place of the sun's rising and setting; this is why the sun sets most to the north in

p. 13

summer and most to the south in winter. At the equinoxes the sun has always 0° Decl., so it rises and sets due east and west all over the world. But at the solstices it has its greatest declination of 23½° N. or S.; it will rise and set therefore furthest from the east and west points; how far, will depend upon the latitude of the place, as will have been gathered from the preceding table (p. 11).

These solstices and their accompaniments are among the striking things in the natural world. In the winter solstice we have the depth of winter, in the summer solstice we have the height of summer, while at the equinoxes we have but transitional changes; in other words, while the solstices point out for us the conditions of greatest heat and greatest cold, the equinoxes point out for us those two times of the year at which the temperature conditions are very nearly equal, although of course in the one case we are saying good-bye to summer and in the other to winter.

Did the ancients know anything about these solstices and these equinoxes? Dealing with the monumental evidence in Egypt alone, the answer is absolutely overwhelming. Many thousand years ago the Egyptians were perfectly familiar with the solstices, and therefore with the yearly path of the sun.

This fundamental division of the sun's apparent revolution and course which define our year into four nearly equal parts may be indicated as in Fig. 5, the highest point reached by the sun in our northern hemisphere being represented at the top.

In order better to consider the problem as it was presented to the early astronomers who built observatories

p. 14

(temples) to mark these points, we may deal with the bearings of the points occupied by the sun on the

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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2009, 11:51:39 pm »



FIG. 5.—The four Astronomical Divisions of the year.



horizon (either at rising or setting) at the times indicated. These points are defined, as we have seen, by

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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2009, 11:52:31 pm »



FIG. 6.—The various bearings of the s in risings and settings in a place with a N. latitude of 51°.
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2009, 11:52:46 pm »

their "amplitude" or their distance in degrees from the E. or W. points of the horizon. In the diagram (Fig. 6)

p. 15

[paragraph continues] I represent the conditions of our chief British sun-temple, Stonehenge, in latitude 51° N. approximately.

Taking the astronomical facts regarding the solstices. and equinoxes for the first year (1901) of the present century, we find—

Sun
 enters
 Aries,
 Spring equinox,
 March 21.
 
"
 "
 Gemini,
 Summer solstice,
 June 21.
 
"
 "
 Libra,
 Autumn equinox,
 September 23.
 
"
 "
 Sagittarius,
 Winter solstice,
 December 23.
 

These points, then, are approximately ninety-one days apart (91 × 4 = 364).

In Fig. 6 I deal with the "amplitudes" at Stonehenge, that is, the angular distance along the horizon from the E. and W. points, at which the sunrise and sunset are seen at the solstices; at the equinoxes they are seen at the E. and W. points. But as these amplitudes vary with the latitude and therefore depend upon the place of observation, a more general treatment is possible if we deal with the declination of the sun itself, that is, its angular distance from the equator.

The maximum declination depends upon the obliquity of the ecliptic, that is, the angle between the plane of the ecliptic and that of the equator at the time of observation. When the Stonehenge Sarsen Stones were erected this angle was, as I shall show later on, 23° 54´ 30″. Its mean value for the present year (1906) is 23° 27´ 5″; it is decreasing very slowly.

It will be obvious from Fig. 6 that in temples built to observe the solstices or equinoxes, if they were open from end to end, looking in one direction we should see the sun rising at a solstice or equinox, and looking in the other we should see the sun setting at the

p. 16

opposite one. I shall show later on that this statement requires a slight modification.

But temples so built interfered with the ceremonial, which required that the light should illuminate a naos—that is, the Sanctuary or Holy of Holies, only entered by the High Priest, and generally kept dark. Usually, therefore, two temples were built back to back, with a common axis, as at Karnak.

And here a very important point comes in; which time of the year and day of the year are most easy to fix by astronomical observation? As a matter of fact the summer solstice, the position of the sun on the longest day, is a point easily fixed. All we have to do is to observe the sun rising more and more to the north as the summer approaches, until at the very height of the summer we have the extreme north-easterly point of the horizon reached, and the sun stands still. We have the solstice. We can then put a row of stakes up, and so fix the solstitial line. Of course we find, as mankind has found generally, that the sun comes back next year to that same solstitial place of rising or setting. So that when we have once got such an alignment for the rising of the sun at midsummer, we can determine the length of the year in days, and therefore the beginning of each year as it comes round.

So much, then, for the chief points in what we may term the astronomical year, those at which the sun's declination is greatest and least. We see that they are approximately ninety-one days apart—say three months.



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« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2009, 11:53:35 pm »

p. 17

CHAPTER III
THE AGRICULTURAL DIVISIONS OF THE YEAR

THE early peoples have been very much misrepresented, and held to leave been uninstructed, by several writers who have not considered what they were really driving at. It was absolutely essential for early man, including the inhabitants of Britain as it was then—townless, uncivilised—that the people should know something about the proper time for performing their agricultural operations. We now go into a shop and for a penny buy an almanack which gives us everything we want to know about the year, the month and the day, and that is the reason why so few of us care about astronomy: we can get all we want from astronomy for a penny or twopence. But these poor people, unless they found out the time of the year and the month and the day for themselves, or got some one to tell them—and their priests were the men who knew, and they were priests because they knew—had absolutely no means of determining when their various agricultural operations should take place. So that we find all over the world temples erected in the very first flush of civilisation.

On this a point comes in of very considerable

p. 18

interest. If we study the civilisations in Egypt, we find that, so far as we know, one of the first peoples who used this principle of orientation for agricultural purposes was some tribe that came down the Nile about 6400 years B.C. They used the star Canopus, and their determination was that of the autumnal equinox, which practically was the time when the Nile began to go down, and when their sowing might begin. There was another race who, instead of being interested in the sun, and therefore in agriculture, at the time of the autumnal equinox, were interested in the year about the time of Easter as well. This race built the Pyramids about four thousand years B.C. There was an interval of about two or three thousand years between these races. As we shall see there were others, who at Thebes started the solstitial worship—that is to say, the worship of the sun at midsummer—and at Memphis in May, so as to enable them to go on with their agricultural operations with greater certainty. We must not forget that first of all the farmers tried to plough and sow by the moon. We can see how hopeless agriculture must have been under such conditions. The month, indeed, was the only unit of time employed, even of human life. We hear of people who lived 1200 years; that means 1200 months—there is no question whatever about that now.

When we study the history of our own country—when we come back from Egypt to Britain, leaving alone Greece and Rome—we find that in various times in our country we have had a year, a farmer's year, beginning in the month of May; we have had another farmer's

p. 19

year beginning in the month of August; we have had another farmer's year beginning at the longest day; and it appears that the year beginning at the longest day was really the last year to be introduced. So that while we have in Stonehenge a solstitial temple—that is to say, a temple to make observations of the length of the year by observing the rise of the sun on the longest day of the year—in other parts of England there were other temples observing the sun, not on the 21st of June, but early in May and early in August.

Now, as I have indicated, the priest-astronomers in these temples could only have won and kept the respect of the agricultural population with whom alone they were surrounded in early times, and by whom they were supported, by being useful to them in some way or another. This could only have been in connection with what we may term generally the farming operations necessary at different times of the year, whether in the shape of preparing the ground or gathering the produce. For this they must have watched the stars.

A very large part of mythology has sprung out of the temple cults, prayer, sacrifices and thanksgiving connected with these farming operations in different lands and ages.

I wish to show next that by studying the orientation of temples erected to watch the stars and sunrise and sunset at times other than the solstices or equinoxes, an immense amount of information may be gained if we endeavour to find the way in which the problem must have been attacked before the year was thoroughly established, and when it was still a question of grass-

p. 20

or corn-kings or gods who had to be propitiated; and we may even be enabled to understand why the particular divisions of the year were chosen.

In a solstitial temple the sun makes its appearance only once a year, when it reaches its greatest north or south declination; but in the temples dealing with lower declinations the sun appears twice, once on its journey from the summer to the winter solstice, and again on its return.

The first difficulty of the inquiry in the direction I have indicated arises from the fact that the products of different countries vary, and that identical farming operations have to be carried on at different times in these countries. We must, then, begin with some one country, and as the record is fullest for Greece I will begin with it.

The first thing we find is that the chief points in the farmer's year in Greece are about as far from the fixed points in the astronomical year as they well can be.

In the Greek information. so admirably collated by M. Ruelle in the article on the calendar in Daremberg and Saglio's monumental "Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines," the earlier Gregorian dates on which the seasons were reckoned to commence in ancient Greece were as follows:—

Summer
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 May 6.
 
Autumn (φθινόπωρον)
 ...
 ...
 August 11.
 
Winter
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 November 10.
 
Spring
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 February 7.
 
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« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2009, 11:54:05 pm »

I may also add from the same source that in the calendars of the Latins the dates become:—

p. 21

Summer
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 May 9.
 
Autumn
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 August 8.
 
Winter
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 November 9.
 
Spring
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 February 7.
 

Now we see at once that these dates are, roughly, half-way between the solstices and equinoxes.

This, then, at once brings us back to the orientation problem, which was to fix by means of a temple in the ordinary way dates nearer to these turning-points in the local farmer's years than those fixed by the solstitial and equinoctial temples.

It must be borne in mind that it is not merely a question of stately piles such as Karnak and the Parthenon in populous centres, but of the humblest dolmen or stone circle, in scattered agricultural communities; which was as certainly used for orientation purposes, that is, for recording the lapse of time at night or return of some season important to the tiller of the soil. The advent of the season thus determined could be announced to outlying districts by fire signals at night.

I have already pointed out that any temple, dolmen or cromlech oriented to a sunrise or sunset at any dates between the solstices will receive the sunlight twice a year.

If the temple is pointed nearly solstitially the two dates at which the sun appears in it will be near the solstice; similarly, for a temple pointed nearly equinoctially the dates will be near the equinox; but if the ancients wished to divide the ninety-one days’ interval between the solstice and equinox, a convenient method of doing this would he to observe the sun at the half-time interval, such that the same temple would serve on both

p. 22

occasions. This could be done by orienting the temple to the sun's place on the horizon when it had the declination 16° 20´ on its upward and downward journey, or, in other words, was, in days, half-way between the equinox and solstice. Thus, for the 45 days ( ) from March 22, we have in—

March
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 9
 
April
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
 30
 
May
 ...
 ...
 ...
 ...
  6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 45
 

What, then, are the non-equinoctial, non-solstitial days of the year when the sun has this declination?

They are, in the sun's journey from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice and back again,

May 6 and August 8
 ...
 ...
 ...
 Sun's decl. N. 16° 20'.
 

Similarly, for the journey to the winter solstice and return we have

November 8 and February 4
 ...
 Sun's decl. S. 16° 20´.
 

We get, then, a year symmetrical with the astronomical year, which can be indicated with it as in Fig. 7; a year roughly halving the intervals between the chief dates of the astronomical year.

With regard to the dates shown I have already pointed out that farming operations would not occur at the same time in different lands; that ploughing and seed time and harvest would vary with crops and latitudes; and I must now add that when we wish to

p. 23

determine the exact days of the month we have to struggle with all the difficulties introduced by the various systems adopted by different ancient nations to bring together the reckoning of months by the moon and of years by the sun.

In more recent times there is an additional difficulty owing to the incomplete reconstruction of the calendar by Julius Cæsar, who gave us the Julian year. Thus,

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2009, 11:55:08 pm »



FIG. 7.—The astronomical and vegetation divisions of the year.



while the spring equinox occurred on March 21 at the time of the Council of Nice, in 325 A.D., by the year 1751 the dating of the year on which it took place had slipped back to the 10th. Hence the Act 24 George II. c. 23, by which September 2, 1752, was followed by September 14 instead of by the 3rd, thus regaining the eleven days lost. This change from the so-called "old style" to the "new style" is responsible for a great deal of confusion.

p. 24

Another cause of trouble was the forsaking by the Jews of the solar year, with which they commenced, in favour of the Babylonian lunar year, which has been continued for the purposes of worship by Christians, giving us "movable feasts" to such an extent that Easter Day, which once invariably marked the spring equinox, may vary from March 22 to April 25, and Whit Sunday from May 10 to June 13. It is at once obvious that no fixed operations of Nature can be indicated by such variable dates as these.

Hence in what follows I shall only deal with the months involved; these amply suffice for a general statement, but a discussion as to exact dates may come later.

To sum up, then, the astronomer-priests had (1) to watch the time at night by observing a star rising near the north point of the horizon. This star would act as a warner of sunrise at some time of the year.

(2) To watch for the rising or setting of other stars in various azimuths warning sunrise at the other critical times of the May or Solstitial years.

(3) To the sunrise and sunset.

(4) To mark all rising or setting places of the warning stars and sun by sight-lines from the circle.



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« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2009, 11:55:55 pm »

p. 25

CHAPTER IV
THE VARIOUS NEW-YEAR DAYS

WITH regard to the astronomical year it may be stated that each solstice and equinox has in turn in some country or another, and even in the same country at different times, been taken as the beginning of the year.

We have, then, to begin with, the following which may be called astronomical years:—

Solstitial
  year.
 June
December
 December
June
 June.
December.
 
Equinoctial
  year.
 March
September
 September
March
 March.
September.
 

Next, if we treat the intermediate points we have found in the same way, we have the following vegetation years:—

Flower
  year.
 May
November
 November
May
 May.
November.
 
Harvest
  year.
 August
February
 February
August
 August.
February.
 

It will have been gathered from Fig. 7 that the temples or cromlechs erected to watch the first sunrise of the May-November-May year could also perform the same office for the August-February-August year; and in a

p. 26

stone circle the priests, by looking along the axis almost in an opposite direction, could note the sunsets marking the completion of the half of the sun's yearly round in November and February.

Now to those who know anything of the important contributions of Grimm, Rhŷs, Frazer, and many others we might name, to our knowledge of the mythology, worships, and customs in the Mediterranean basin and western Europe, an inspection of the first columns in the above tables will show that here we have a common meeting-ground for temple orientation, vegetation and customs depending on it, religious festivals, and mythology. From the Egyptian times at least to our own a generic sun-god has been specifically commemorated in each of the named months. Generic customs with specific differences are as easily traced in the same months; while generic vegetation with specific representatives proper to the season of the year has been so carefully regarded that even December, though without May flowers or August harvests, not to be outdone, brings forward its offering in the shape of the berries of the mistletoe and holly.

About the mistletoe there is this difficulty. Innumerable traditions associate it with worship and the oak tree. Undoubtedly the year in question was the solstitial year, so that so far as this goes the association is justified. But as a rule the mistletoe does not grow on oaks. This point has been frequently inquired into, especially by Dr. Henry Ball (Journal of Botany, vol. ii. p. 361, 1864) in relation to the growth of the plant in Herefordshire, and by a writer in the Quarterly Review (vol. cxiv.), who spoke of the mistletoe "deserting the oak" in modern times and stated, "it is now so rarely

p. 27

found on that tree as to have led to the suggestion that we must look for the mistletoe of the Druids, not in the Viscum album of our own trees and orchards, but in the Loranthus Europaeus which is frequently found on oaks in the south of Europe."

On this point I consulted two eminent botanical friends, Mr. Murray, of the British Museum, and Prof. Farmer, from whom I have learned that the distribution of V. album is in Europe universal except north of Norway and north of Russia; in India in the temperate Himalayas from Kashmir to Nepaul, altitude 3000 to 7000 feet.

The Viscum aureum, otherwise called Loranthus Europaeus, is a near relation of the familiar mistletoe, and in Italy grows on the oak almost exclusively. There are fifty species of Loranthus in the-Indian flora, but L. Europaeus does not occur.

In the Viscum aureum we have the "golden bough," the oak-borne Aurum frondens and Ramus aureus of Virgil; and it can easily be imagined that when the Druids reached our shores from a country which had supplied them with the Viscum aureum, this would be replaced by the V. album growing chiefly on apple trees and not on oaks; indeed, Mr. Davies, in his "Celtic Researches," tells us that the apple was the next sacred tree to the oak, and that apple orchards were planted in the vicinity of the sacred groves. The transplanting of the mistletoe from the apple to the oak tree before the mystic ceremonies began was not beyond the resources of priestcraft.

It must not be forgotten that these ceremonies took place at both solstices—once in June, when the oak was

p. 28

in full leaf, and again in December, when the parasitic plant was better visible in the light of the young moon. Mr. Frazer, in his "Golden Bough" (iii. p. 328), points "out that at the summer solstice not only was mistletoe gathered, but many other "magic plants, whose evanescent virtue can be secured at this mystic season alone."

It is the ripening of the berries at the winter solstice which secured for the mistletoe the paramount importance the ceremonials connected with it possessed at that time, when the rest of the vegetable world was dormant.

With regard especially to the particular time of the year chosen for sun-worship and the worship of the gods and solar heroes connected with the years to which I have referred, I may add that the vague year in Egyptian chronology makes it a; very difficult matter to determine the exact Gregorian dates for the ancient Egyptian festivals, but, fortunately, there is another way of getting at them. Mr. Roland Mitchell, when compiling his valuable "Egyptian Calendar" (Luzac and Co., 1900), found that the Koptic calendar really presents to us the old Egyptian year, "which has been in use for thousands of years, and has survived all the revolutions."

Of the many festivals included in the calendar, the great Tanta fair, which is also a Mohammedan feast, "is the most important of all held in Egypt. Religion, commerce, and pleasure offer combined attractions." As many as 600,000 or 700,000 often attend this great fair, "no doubt the survival of one of the ancient Egyptian national festivals."

p. 29

It is held so as to end on a Friday, and in 1901 the Friday was August 9!

This naturally suggests that we should look for a feast in the early part of May. We find the Festival of Al-Khidr, or Elias in the middle of the wheat. harvest in Lower Egypt; of this we read:—

"Al-Khidr is a mysterious personage, who, according to learned opinion, was a just man, or saint, the Visīr of Dhu’l-Karnên (who was a great conqueror, contemporary with Ibrahīm—Abraham—and identified in other legends with Alexander the Great, St. George, &c.). Al-Khidr, it is believed, still lives, and will live until the Day of Judgment. He is clad in green garments, whence probably the name. He is commonly identified with Elias (Elijah), and this confusion seems due to a confusion or similarity of some of the attributes that tradition assigns to both."

"The 'Festival of El-Khidr and of Elias,' falling generally on May 6, marks the two-fold division of the year, in the Turkish and Armenian calendars, into the Rūz Kāsim and the Rūz Khidr (of 179-80 and 185-6 days respectively.")

This last paragraph is important, as it points to ancient sun-worship, Helios being read for Elias and 179 days from May 6 bring us to November 1. So we find that the modern Turks and Armenians have the old May-November year as well as the ancient Egyptians who celebrated it in the Temple of Menu at Thebes.

The traces of the Ptah worship are not so obvious. Finally, it may be stated that the second Tanta fair occurs at the spring equinox, so that the pyramid worship can still be traced in the modern Egyptian

p. 30

calendar. The proof that this was an exotic 1 is established, I think, by the fact that no important agricultural operations occur at this period in Egypt, while in May we have the harvest, in August and November sowing, going on.

A cursory examination of Prof. Rhŷs’ book containing the Hibbert Lectures of 1886, in the light of these years, used as clues, suggests that in Ireland the sequence was May-November (Fomori and Fir Bolg), August-February (Lug and the Tuatha Dé Danann), and, lastly, June–December. (Cúchulainn). Should this be confirmed we see that the farmers’ years were the first to be established, and it is interesting to note that the agricultural rent year in many parts of Ireland still runs from May to November. It is well also to bear in mind, if it be established that the solstitial year did really arrive last, that the facts recorded by Mr. Frazer in his "Golden Bough" indicate that the custom of lighting fires on hills has been in historic times most prevalent at the summer solstice; evidently maps showing the geographical distribution of the May, June, and August fires would be of great value.

Some customs of the May and August years are common to the solstitial and equinoctial years. Each was ushered in by fires on hills and the like; flowers in May and the fruits of the earth in August are associated with them; there are also special customs in the case of November. In western Europe, however, it does not seem that such traditions exist over such a


p. 31

large area as that over which the remnants of the solstitial practices have been traced.

I have pointed out that both the May and August years began when the sun had the same declination (16° N. or thereabouts); once, on its ascent from March to the summer solstice in June, again in its decline from the solstice to September. Hence it may be more difficult in this case to disentangle and follow the mythology, but the two years stand out here and there. With regard to August, Mr. Penrose's orientation data for the Panathenæa fix the 19th day (Gregorian) for the festival in the Hecatompedon; similar celebrations were not peculiar to western Europe and Greece, as a comparison of dates of worship will show.

Hecatompedon
 April 28
 and
 August 16.
 
Older Erechtheum
 April 29
 „
 August 13.
 
Temple of Diana, Ephesus
 April 29
 „
 August 13.
 
   „       Min, Thebes
 May 1
 „
 August 12.
 
   „       Ptah, Memphis
 April 18
 „
 August 24.
 
   „          „   Annu
 April 18
 „
 August 24.
 
   „        Solar Disc, Tell el-Amarna
 April 18
 „
 August 24.
 

In the above table I have given both the dates on which the sunlight (at rising or setting) entered the temple, but we do not know for certain, except in the case of the Hecatompedon, on which of the two days the temples were used; it is likely they were all used on both days, and that the variation from the dates proper to the sun's declination of N. 16° indicates that they were very accurately oriented to fit the local vegetation conditions in the most important and extensive temple fields in the world.

p. 32

This is the more probable because the Jews also, after they had left Egypt, established their feast of Pentecost fifty days after Easter = May 10, on which day loaves made of newly harvested corn formed the chief offering.

With regard to the equinoctial year, the most complete account of the temple arrangements is to be found in Josephus touching that at Jerusalem. The temple had to be so erected that at the spring equinox the sunrise light should fall on, and be reflected to, the worshippers by the sardonyx stones on the high priest's garment. At this festival the first barley was laid upon the altar.

But this worship was in full swing in Egypt for thousands of years before we hear of it in connection with the Jews. It has left its temples at Ephesus, Athens, and other places, and with the opening of this year as well as of the solstitial one the custom of lighting fires is associated, not only on hills, but also in churches.

Here the sequence of cult cannot be mistaken. We begin with Isis and the young Sun-god Horus at the, Pyramids, and we end with "Lady Day," a British legal date; while St. Peter's at Rome is as truly oriented to the equinox as the Pyramids themselves, so that we have a distinct change of cult with no change of orientation.

If such considerations as these help us to connect Egyptian with British worships we may hope that they will be no less useful when we go further afield. I gather from a study of Mr. Maudslay's admirable plans of Palenque and Chichén-Itzá that the solstitial and

p. 33

farmers’ years’ worships were provided for there. How did these worships and associated temples with naos and sphinxes 1 get from Egypt to Yucatan? The more we know of ancient travel the more we are convinced that it was coastwise, that is, from one point of visible land to the next. Are the cults as old as differences in the coast-lines which would most easily explain their wide distribution?



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Footnotes
30:1 In Babylonia the spring equinox was the critical time of the year because the Tigris and Euphrates then began to rise.

33:1 See Dawn of Astronomy, Plate facing p. 182, for the lines of sphinxes at Karnak.



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« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2009, 11:57:43 pm »

p. 34

CHAPTER V
CONDITIONS AND TRADITIONS AT STONEHENGE

AFTER Mr. Penrose, by his admirable observations in Greece, had shown that the orientation theory accounted as satisfactorily for the directions in which the chief temples in Greece had been built as I had shown it did for some in Egypt, it seemed important to apply the same methods of inquiry with all available accuracy to some example, at all events, of the various stone circles in Britain which have so far escaped destruction. Many attempts had been previously made to secure data, but the instruments and methods employed did not seem to be sufficient.

Much time has, indeed, been lost in the investigation of a great many of these circles, for the reason that in many cases the relations of the monuments to the chief points of the horizon have not been considered; and when they were, the observations were made only with reference to the magnetic north, which is different at different places, and besides is always varying; few indeed have tried to get at the astronomical conditions of the problem.

p. 35

The first, I think, was Mr. Jonathan Otley, who in 1849 showed the "Orientation" of the Keswick Circle "according to the solar meridian," giving true solar bearings throughout the year.

I wrote a good deal in Nature 1 on sun and star temples in 1891, and Mr. Lewis the next year expressed the opinion that the British Stone Monuments, or some of them, were sun and star temples.

Mr. Magnus Spence of Deerness in Orkney published a pamphlet, "Standing Stones and Maeshowe of Stenness, 2" in 1894; it is a reprint of an article in the Scottish Review, Oct. 1893. Mr. Cursiter, F.S.A., of Kirkwall, in a letter to me dated 15 March 1894, a letter suggested by my Dawn of Astronomy which appeared in that year and in which the articles which had appeared in Nature in 1891 had been expanded, drew my attention to the pamphlet; the observations had no pretension to scientific accuracy, and although some of the sight-lines were incorrectly shown in an accompanying map, May year and solstitial alignments were indicated.

 

So far as I know, there has never been a complete inquiry into the stone circles in Britain, but Mr. Lewis, who has paid great attention to these matters, has dealt in a general manner with them (Archaeological Journal, vol. xlix. p. 136), and has further described (Journal Anthropological Institute, n.s., iii., 1900) the observations made by him of stone circles in various parts of Scotland. From an examination of the latter he concludes



p. 36

that they may be divided into different types, each of which has its centre in a different locality. The types are—(1) the Western Scottish type, consisting of a rather irregular single ring or sometimes of two concentric rings (2) the Inverness type, consisting of a more regular ring of better-shaped stones, surrounding a tumulus with a retaining wall, containing a built-up chamber and passage leading to it, or a kist without a passage; (3) the Aberdeen type, consisting of a similar ring with the addition of a so-called "altar-stone" and usually having traces of a tumulus and kist in the middle. In addition to these three types of circles, there are in Britain generally what Mr. Lewis calls sun and star circles, with their alignments of stones, and apparently proportioned measurements. He has shown that there is a great preponderance of outlying stones and hill-tops lying between the circles and the N.E. quarter of the horizon. From what has been stated in Chapter III with regard to the nightly observations of stars it will be gathered that these may have been used for this purpose.

The following list gives some of the bearings of outlying stones and other circles from the centres of the named circles:—

Roll-rich, Oxon.—Kingstone
 N. 27°
 E.
 
Stripple Stones, Cornwall—Bastion on bank
 N. 26
 E.
 
Long Meg, Cumberland—Small circle
 N. 27
 E.
 
The Hurlers, Cornwall—Two outlying circles
 N. 13-16
 E.
 
Trippet Stones—Leaze circle
 N. 11
 E.
 

If these alignments mean anything they must of course refer to the rising of stars, as the position on the horizon is outside the sun's path.

p. 37

The many circles in Cornwall have been dealt with by Mr. Lukis in a volume published by the Society of Antiquaries in 1895. 1 A carefully prepared list of circles will be found in Mr. Windle's recently published work entitled "Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England."

It may be useful here to state, with regard to megalithic remains generally, that they may be classed as follows; some details will be discussed later on.

(a) Circles: These may be single, double, or multiple, and either concentric or not.

(b) Menhirs, large single stones, used to mark sight-lines from circles.

(c) Alignments, i.e., lines of stones in single, double, or in many parallel lines. If these alignments are short they are termed avenues.

(d) Holed-stones, doubtless used for observing sight-lines, sometimes over a circle.

(e) Coves. A term applied by Dr. Stukeley and others to what they considered shrines: formed by three upright stones, thus leaving one side open. I take them to be partially protected observing places. There are well-marked examples at Avebury, Stanton Drew and Kit's Coity House.

(f) Cromlechs. This term generally means a grouping of upright stones; it is applied to irregular circles in Brittany. It also applies to a stone or stones raised on the summits of three or more pillar stones forming the end and sides of an irregular vault generally open at one end ("Dolmens of Ireland," Borlase, p. 429).


p. 38

[paragraph continues] The top stone is called in S.W. England a "quoit." Cromlechs in most cases have been covered by barrows or cairns.

(g) Dolmens, from Dol Men, a table stone. These consist of stones, resting on two or more upright stones forming a more or less complete chamber, some of which are of great length. I note the following subdivisions: "Dolmen à galerie" having an entrance way of sufficient height, and "Galgal," similar but smaller. In the "Dolmen â l’allée couverte" there is a covered passage way to the centre. It is a more elaborate cove. For the relation between cromlechs and dolmens, see Borlase (loc. cit. and p. 424 et seq.).

With regard to dolmens, I give the following quotation from Mr. Penrose (Nature, vol. lxiv., September 12, 1901):—

“Near Locmariaquer in the estuary named Rivière d’Auray, there is an island named Gavr’ Inis, or Goat Island, which contains a good specimen of the kind of dolmen which has been named 'Galgal.'

“At the entrance our attention is at once arrested by the profusion of tracery which covers the walls. From the entrance to the wall facing us the distance is between 50 and 60 feet. The square chamber to which the gallery leads is composed of two huge slabs, the sides of the room and gallery being composed of upright stones, about a dozen on each side. The mystic lines and hieroglyphics similar to those above mentioned appear to have a decorative character.

"An interesting feature of Gavr’ Inis is its remarkable resemblance to the New Grange tumulus at Meath.

p. 39

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« Reply #25 on: January 11, 2009, 11:58:28 pm »

In construction there is again a strong resemblance to Maas-Howe, in the island of Orkney. There is also some resemblance in smaller details."

While we generally have circles in Britain without, or with small, alignments; in Brittany we have alignments without circles, some of them being on an enormous scale; 1 thus at Menec (the place of stones) we have eleven lines of menhirs, terminating towards the west in a cromlech, and, notwithstanding that great numbers have been converted to other uses, 1169 menhirs still remain, some reaching as much as 18 feet in height.

The alignments of Kermario (the place of the dead) contain 989 menhirs in ten lines. Those of Kerlescant (the place of burning), which beginning with eleven rows are afterwards increased to thirteen, contain altogether 579 stones and thirty-nine in the cromlech, with some additional stones. The adoration paid these stones yielded very slowly to Christianity, In the church history of Brittany the Cultus Lapidum was denounced in 658 A.D.

Many of the fallen menhirs in these alignments have been restored to their upright position by the French Government. Some of them may have been overturned in compliance with the decree of 658 A.D. above referred to. Several of the loftier menhirs are surmounted by crosses of stone or iron.

Both circles and alignments are associated with holidays and the lighting of fires on certain days of the


p. 40

year. This custom has remained more general in Brittany than in Britain. At Mount St. Michael, near Carnac, the custom still prevails of lighting a large bonfire on its summit at the time of the summer solstice; others, kindled on prominent eminences for a distance of twenty or thirty miles, round, reply to it. These fires are locally called "Tan Heol," and also by a later use, Tan St. Jean. In Scotland there was a similar custom in the first week in May under the name of Bel Tan, or Baal's Fire; the synonym for summer used by Sir Walter Scott in the "Lady of the Lake":—


Ours is no sapling chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane in winter to fade.

At Kerlescant the winter solstice is celebrated by a holiday, whilst Menec greets the summer solstice, and Kermario the equinoxes, with festivals. Concerning these fires and the associated customs Mr. Frazer's "Golden Bough" is a perfect mine of information and should be consulted. It may simply be said here that the May and November, and June and December fires seen to be the most ancient. It is stated that the Balder bale fires on Mayday Eve were recognised by the primitive race, and I shall prove this in the sequel when British customs are referred to. On the introduction of Christianity the various customs were either transferred to or reorganised in association with church festivals but as some of these, such as Easter, are movable feasts, it is difficult to follow the dates.

Regarding both circles and alignments in the light of the orientation theory, we may consider simple

p. 41

circles with a central stone as a collection of sight-lines from the central stone to one or more of the outer ones, or the interval between any two; indicating the place of the rise or setting of either the sun or a star on some particular day of the year, which day, in the case of the sun, will be a new year's day.

Alignments, on the other hand, will play the same part as the sight-lines in the circles.

Sometimes the sight-line may be indicated by a menhir outside, and even at a considerable distance from, the circle; later on tumuli replaced menhirs.

The dolmens have, I am convinced, been in many cases not graves originally, but darkened observing places whence to observe along a sight-line; this would be best done by means of an allée couverte, the predecessor of the darkened naos at Stonehenge, shielded by its covered trilithons.

In order to obtain some measurements to test the orientation theory in Britain, I found that Stonehenge is the ancient monument in this country which lends itself to accurate theodolite work better than any other. Mr. Spence's excellent work on astronomical lines at Stenness, where the stones, till some years ago at all events, have been more respected than further south, suggested a beginning there, but the distance from London made it impossible.

Avebury and Stanton Drew are well known to a great many archæologists; there are also other very wonderful stone circles near Keswick and in other parts of England; but unfortunately it is very much more difficult, to get astronomical data from these

p. 42

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« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2009, 11:58:50 pm »

ancient monuments than it is in the case of Stonehenge, one reason being that Stonehenge itself lies high, and the horizon round it in all directions is pretty nearly the same height, so that the important question of the heights of the hills along the sightline—a matter which is fundamental from an astronomical point of view, although it has been neglected so far as I can make out, by most who have made observations on these ancient monuments—is quite a simple one at Stonehenge. Hence it was much easier to determine a date there than by working at any of the other ancient remains to which I have referred.

In orientation generally—such orientation as has been dealt with by Mr. Penrose and myself in Egypt and in Greece—the question frequently was a change in direction in the axis of a temple, or the laying down of the axis of a temple, by means of observations of stars. Unfortunately for us as archæologists, not as astronomers, the changes of position of the stars, owing to certain causes, chiefly the precessional movement, are very considerable; so that if a temple pointed to a star in one year, in two or three hundred years it would no longer point to the same star, but to another.

These star observations were requisite in order to warn the priests about an hour before sunrise so that they might prepare for the morning sacrifice which always took place at the first appearance of the sun. Hence the morning star to be visible in the dawn must be a bright one, and the further north or south of the sun's rising place it rose, the more easily it would be seen. Some stars so chosen rose not far

p. 43

from the north point of the horizon. The alignments with small azimuths referred to in the British circles (p. 36) I believe to be connected with the Egyptian and Greek practice.

Acting on a very old tradition, some people from Salisbury and other surrounding places go to observe the sunrise on the longest day of the year at Stonehenge. We therefore are perfectly justified in assuming that it was a solar temple used for observation in the height of midsummer. But at dawn in midsummer in these latitudes the sky is so bright, that it is not easy to see stars even if we get up in the morning to look for them; stars, therefore, were not in question, so that some other principle had to be adopted, and that was to point the temple directly to the position on the horizon at which the sun rose on that particular day of the year, and no other.

Now, if there were no change in the position of the sun, that, of course, would go on for ever and ever; but, fortunately for archaeologists, there is a slight change in the position of the sun, as there is in the case of a star, but for a different reason; the planes of the ecliptic and of the equator undergo a slight change in the angle included between them. So far as we know, that angle has been gradually getting less for many thousands of years, so that; in the case of Stonehenge, if we wish to determine the date, having no stars to help us, the only thing that we can hope to get any information from is the very slow change of this angle; that, therefore, was the special point which Mr. Penrose and I were anxious to study at Stonehenge, for the reason that we seemed in a position

p. 44

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« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2009, 12:00:49 am »



FIG. 8.—The original tooling of the stone protected from the action of the weather.



to do it there more conveniently than anywhere else in Britain.

But while the astronomical conditions are better at

p. 45

[paragraph continues] Stonehenge than elsewhere; the ruined state of the monument makes accurate measurements very difficult.

Great age and the action of weather are responsible for much havoc, so that very many of the stones are now recumbent, as will be gathered from an article

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« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2009, 12:01:27 am »



FIG. 9.—View of Stonehenge from the west. A stone which fell in 1909; BB, stones which fell in 1797. (Reproduced from an article on the fallen stones by Mr. Lewis in Man.)



by Mr. Lewis, who described the condition of the monument in 1901, in Man.

Professor Gowland in his excavations at Stonehenge, to which I shall refer in the sequel, found the original tooled surface near the bottom of one of the large sarsens which had been protected from the action of the weather by having been buried in the ground. It enables us to, imagine the appearance of the monument as it left the hands of the builders (Fig. Cool.

p. 46

But the real destructive agent has been man himself; savages could not have played more havoc with

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« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2009, 12:20:43 am »



FIG. 10.—Copy of Hoare's plan of 1810, showing the unbroken Vallum and its relation with the Avenue.
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