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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 1324 times)
Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #60 on: January 12, 2009, 01:07:58 am »

line joining the stones is therefore about 4 feet to the S.E. of the axis of the present circles, which, it may be


p. 90

stated, passes 3 feet to the N.W. of the N.W. edge of the Friar's Heel (see Fig. 24).

There are besides these two large untrimmed sarsen stones, one standing some distance outside the vallum, one recumbent lying on the vallum; both nearly, but not quite, in the sunrise line as viewed from the centre of the sarsen circle. These are termed the "Friar's Heel" and "Slaughter Stone" respectively.

I will deal with (1) first, and begin by another quotation from Mr. Cunnington, who displayed great acumen in dealing with the smaller stones not sarsens.

“The most important consideration connected with the smaller stones, and one which in its archæological bearing has been too much overlooked, is the fact of their having been brought from a great distance. I expressed an opinion on this subject in a lecture delivered at Devizes more than eighteen years ago, and I have been increasingly impressed with it since. I believe that these stones would not have been brought from such a distance to a spot where an abundance of building Stones equally suitable ill every respect already existed, unless some special or religious value had been attached to them. This goes far to prove that Stonehenge was originally a temple, and neither a monument raised to the memory of the dead, nor an astronomical calendar or almanac.

"It has been suggested that they were Danams, or the offerings of successive votaries. Would there in such case have been such uniformity of design, or would they have been all alike of foreign materials? I would make one remark about the small impost of a trilithon of syenite, now lying prostrate within the circle. One

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writer has followed another in taking it for granted that there must have been a second, corresponding with it, on the opposite side. Of this there is neither proof nor record, not a trace of one having been seen by any person who has written on the subject. This small impost, not being of sarsen, but syenite, must have belonged to the original old circle; it may even have suggested to the builders of the present Stonehenge the idea of the large imposts, and trilithons with their tenons and mortices."

In Prof. Gowland's examination of the contents of the holes necessarily dug in his operations, it was found over and over again, indeed almost universally, that the quantity of blue stone chippings was much greater than that front the sarsen stones. While the sarsen stones had only been worked or tooled on their surface; the blue stones had been hewed and trimmed in extraordinary fashion; indeed it is stated by Prof. Judd that they had been reduced to half their original dimensions in this process, the chippings almost equalling the volume of the stones themselves.

It seems, then, that when the sarsen stones were set up, the sarsen and blue stones were treated very differently. This being so, the following quotation from Prof. Judd's "Note" is interesting (Archaeologia, p. 81):—

“I may repeat my conviction that if the prevalent beliefs and traditions concerning Stonehenge were true, and the "Bluestone" circles were transported from some distant locality, either as trophies of war or as the sacred treasures of a wandering tribe, it is quite inconceivable that they should have been hewed and

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chipped, as we now know them to have been, and reduced in some cases to half their dimensions, after having been carried with enormous difficulty over land and water, and over hills and valleys. On the other hand, in the glacial drift, which once probably thinly covered the district, the glacial deposits dying out very gradually as we proceed southwards, we have a source from which such stones might probably have been derived. It is quite a well-known peculiarity of the glacial drift to exhibit considerable assemblages of stones of a particular character at certain spots, each of these assemblages having probably been derived from the same source.

"I would therefore suggest as probable that when the early inhabitants of this island commenced the **** of Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain was sprinkled over thickly with the great white masses of the sarsen stones ('grey wethers'), and much more sparingly with darker coloured boulders (the so-called 'blue-stones'), the last relics of the glacial drift, which have been nearly denuded away. From these two kinds of materials the stones suitable for the contemplated temple were selected. It is even possible that the abundance and association of these two kinds of materials so strikingly contrasted in colour and appearance, at a particular spot, may not only have decided the site, but to some extent have suggested the architectural features of the noble structure of Stonehenge."

If we grant everything that Prof. Judd states, the question remains—why did the same men in the same place at the same time treat the sarsen and blue stones so differently?

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I shall show subsequently that there is a definite answer to the question on one assumption.

I next come to (2). The important point about these stones is that with the amplitude 26°, at Stonehenge, a line from the centre of the circle over the N.W. stone would mark the sunset place in the first week in May, and a line over the S.E. stone would similarly deal with the November sunrise. We are thus brought, in presence of the May-November year.

Another point about these stones is that they are not at the same distance from the centre of the sarsen stone circle, which itself is concentric with the temenos mound; this is why they lie at different distances from the mound. Further, a line drawn from the point of the Friar's heel over the now recumbent Slaughter Stone with the amplitude determined by Mr. Penrose and myself for the summer solstice sunrise in 1680 B.C. cuts the line joining the stones at the middle point, suggesting that the four untrimmed sarsen stones provided alignments both for the May and June years at about that date.

Nor is this all; the so-called tumuli within the vallum (Fig. 10) may have been observation mounds, for the lines passing from the northern tumulus over the N.W. stone and from the southern tumulus over the S.E. one are parallel to the avenue, and therefore represent the solstitial orientation.

So much, then, for the stones. We see that, dealing only with the untrimmed sarsens that remain, the places of the May sunset and June and November sunrises were marked from the same central point.

Statements have been made that there was the stump

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of another stone near the vallum to the S.W., in the line of the Friar's Heel and Slaughter Stone, produced backwards, at the same distance from the old centre as the N.W. and S.E. stones. This stone was not found in an exploration by Sir Edmund Antrobus, Mr.

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #61 on: January 12, 2009, 01:09:33 am »



Fig. 25.—The rod on the recumbent stone is placed in and along the common axis of the present circle and avenue. It is seen that the Friar's Heel, the top of which is shown in the distance, would hide the sunrise place if the axis were a little further to the S.E.

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #62 on: January 12, 2009, 01:09:47 am »

 Penrose and Mr. Howard Payn by means of a sword and an auger. But the question will not be settled until surface digging is permitted, as a "road" about which there is a present contention passes near the spot.

But even this is not the only evidence we have for

p. 95

the May worship in early times. There is an old tradition of the slaughter of Britons by the Saxons at Stonehenge, known as "The Treachery of the Long Knives"; according to some accounts, 460 British chieftains were killed while attending a banquet and conference. Now at what time of the year did this take place? Was it at the summer solstice on June 21? I have gathered from Guest's "Mabinogion," vol. ii. p. 433, and Davies's "Mythology of the British Druids," p. 333, that the banquet took place on May eve "Meinvethydd." Is it likely that this date would have been chosen in a solar temple dedicated exclusively to the solstice?

Now the theory to which my work and thought have led me is that the megalithic structures at Stonehenge—the worked sarsens with their mortices and lintels, and above all the trilithons of the magnificent naos—represent a re-dedication and a reconstruction, on a more imposing plan and scale, of a much older temple, which was originally used for worship in connection with the May year.


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Footnotes
89:1 Plans and photographs of Stonehenge, &c., by Colonel Sir Henry James, R.E., F.R.S., Director-General of the Ordnance Survey, 1867.



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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #63 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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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #64 on: January 12, 2009, 01:13:01 am »



FIG. 26.—Alignments at Le Ménec.
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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #65 on: January 12, 2009, 01:14:05 am »

approximately accurate observations, has put the solstitial orientation beyond question, and, further, has made important observations which prove that the May and August sunrises were also provided for in the systems of

p. 100

alignments. I give the following extracts from his letter:—

“It is about twelve years ago that I remarked in the west part of the Department of Morbihan (near Lorient) the parallelism of the lines marked out by monuments of all sorts, and frequently oriented to the N.E., or rather

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #66 on: January 12, 2009, 01:15:45 am »



FIG. 27.—Menhir (A) on Melon Island.
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« Reply #67 on: January 12, 2009, 01:17:00 am »

between N. 50° E. and N. 55° E. I had ascertained, moreover, the existence of lines perpendicular to the first named, the right angle being very well measured.

“The plans, which refer to the cantons of Ploudalmézeau and of St. Renan (district of Brest) and of Crozon (district of Chateaulin), have been made on a plane-table; the orientations are exact to one or two degrees.

“In the cantons of Ploudalmézeau and of St. Renan,

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the monuments are generally simple; seven menhirs are visible of enormous dimensions, remarkable by the polish of their surface and the regularity of their section. The roughnesses hardly ever reach a centimetre; the sections are more often ovals, sometimes rectangles with the angles rounded or terminated by semicircles. In the canton of Crozon the monuments are, on the contrary, complex; we find a cromlech with

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« Reply #68 on: January 12, 2009, 01:17:45 am »



FIG. 28.—Melon Island, allowing Menhir (A) and Cromlech (B and C).

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Ericka Bowman
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« Reply #69 on: January 12, 2009, 01:19:11 am »

an avenue leading to it of a length of 800 metres, another of 300 metres. Unfortunately, the rocks employed (sandstone and schist from Plungastel and Crozon) have resisted less well than the granulite from the north part of the Department. The monuments are for the most part in a very bad condition; the whole must, nevertheless, formerly have been comparable with that of Carnac-Leomariaquer.

“For the two regions, granitic and schistose, the results of the observations are identical.

“The monuments lie along lines oriented S. 54° W.

p. 102

[paragraph continues] → N. 54° E. (54° = azimuth at the solstices for L = 48° 30´ and i = 23° 30') and N. 54° W. → S. 54° E. Some of them determine lines perpendicular to the meridian.

“One menhir (A), 6m. 90 in height and 9m. 20 in circumference, erected in the small island of Melon



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« Reply #70 on: January 12, 2009, 01:22:46 am »



FIG. 29.—Menhirs of St. Dourzal, D, E, F.
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« Reply #71 on: January 12, 2009, 01:24:12 am »

 (canton of Ploudalmézeau, latitude 48° 29´ 05″) a few metres from a tumulus surrounded by the ruins of a cromlech (B and C), has the section such that the faces, parallel and remarkably plane, are oriented N. 54° E. (Figs. 27 and 28).

“At 1300 metres in the same azimuth there is a line of three large menhirs (D, E, F), of which one (E) is overthrown. The direction of the line passes exactly

p. 103

by the menhir A. Prolonged towards the N.E. it meets at 3k. 700m. an overturned block of 2m. 50 in height, which is without doubt a menhir; towards the S.W. it passes a little to the south some lines of the island of Molène. . . . (Fig. 29).

“There exists in the neighbourhood other groups, forming also lines of the same orientation and that of

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« Reply #72 on: January 12, 2009, 01:25:04 am »



FIG. 30.—Alignment at Lagatjar, G G´.
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« Reply #73 on: January 12, 2009, 01:25:26 am »

the winter solstice. It is advisable to remark that orientations well determined for the solstices are much less so for the equinoxes, which is natural, the rising amplitude varying very rapidly at this time of year.

“The same general dispositions are to be found in the complex monuments of the peninsula of Crozon. I take for example the alignments of Lagatjar. Two parallel lines of menhirs, G G´ H H´, are oriented to S. 54° E. and cut perpendicularly by a third line, I I´. There existed less than fifty years ago a menhir at K,

p. 104

[paragraph continues] 6 metres high, which is to-day broken and overturned. This megalith, known in the country by the name of 'pierre du Conseil' (a bronze axe was found underneath it) gives with a dolmen situated near Camaret the direction of the sunrise on June 21 (Fig. 31).

"I have just spoken of the lines perpendicular to the solstitial one; there exists more especially in the complex monuments another particularity which merits
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« Reply #74 on: January 12, 2009, 01:26:39 am »



FIG. 31.—Alignments at Lagatjar, showing the pierre du Conseil and the direction of the dolmen. From the pierre du Conseil the dolmen marks the sunrise place at the summer solstice, and the avenue G G´ H H´ the sunset place on the same day.
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