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the Ancient World => Stonehenge & the Druids => Topic started by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:35:34 pm

Title: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:35:34 pm

Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
by Norman Lockyer

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:36:02 pm
After centuries of speculation the origin, purpose, and construction of Stonehenge is still a mystery. Out of the hundreds of books on the subject, a few stand out. Lockyer's careful survey of the monument and other Northern European megaliths is one of these. Lockyer, who had spotless academic credentials, raised some of the themes which would dominate mainstream theories of Stonehenge during the 20th century, particularly his focus on archaeo-astronomy. Lockyer's primary hypothesis, that Stonehenge and other megalithic constructions were ancient observatories, is still considered plausible. He also noted the vast alignments of sites which covered the landscape, both in Britain and in northern France, anticipating Afred Watkins' discovery of ley lines by over a decade.

On the other hand, his conclusion that Stonehenge was constructed by immigrants from the Near East was, even then, controversial. The use of large stones to construct monuments was global in nature over a long period of history. Lockyer rolls out the well-known folklore evidence for Celtic tree, well, and stone worship, which had parallels in ancient Near Eastern paganism. However, the people who constructed Stonehenge were pre-Celtic, and their religious beliefs are still a matter for speculation. This isn't to say that his hypothesis is implausible, just that there is no concrete evidence to support it.

Production notes: this text was scanned from a print-on-demand edition of this book, due to the unavailability of an original. For this reason, due to speckling, the OCR stage introduced a great deal of spurious punctuation which had to be edited out, and some problems of this nature may still remain, even though due care was taken in proofing. In addition, the scanned illustrations are not of the highest quality. Hopefully this will be remedied at some point--J.B. Hare.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:37:02 pm
Astronomically Considered
Scanned at, January 2007. Proofed and formatted by John Bruno Hare. This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published prior to January 1st, 1923. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact in all copies.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:38:10 pm

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:39:02 pm
p. v


IN continuation of my work on the astronomical uses of the Egyptian Temples, I have from time to time, when leisure has permitted, given attention to some of the stone circles and other stone monuments erected, as I believed, for similar uses in this country. One reason for doing so was that in consequence of the supineness of successive Governments, and the neglect and wanton destruction by individuals, the British monuments are rapidly disappearing.

Although, and indeed because, these inquiries are still incomplete, I now bring together some of the notes I have collected, as they may induce other inquirers to go on with the work. Some of the results already obtained have been communicated to the Royal Society, and others have appeared in articles published in Nature, but only a small percentage of the monuments available has so far been examined. Further observations are required in order that the hypothesis set forth in this book may be rejected or confirmed.

In the observations made at Stonehenge referred to in Chapter VII. I had the inestimable advantage of

p. vi

the collaboration of the late Mr. Penrose. Our work there would not have been possible without the sympathetic assistance of Sir Edmund Antrobus, Bart.; Colonel Duncan A. Johnston, R.E., Director-General of the Ordnance Survey, also was good enough on several occasions to furnish us with much valuable information which is referred to in its place. Messrs. Howard Payn and Fowler skilfully and zealously helped in the observations and computations. To all these I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my obligations.

With regard to the other monuments besides Stonehenge, I have to tender my thanks to the following gentlemen for most valuable local assistance:—

Brittany—Lieut. de Vaisseau Devoir.

Stenness—Mr. Spence.

Stanton Drew—Professor Lloyd Morgan, Mr. Morrow, and Mr. Dymond.

The Hurlers, and the Merry Maidens—the Right Hon. Viscount Falmouth, Capt. Henderson, Mr. Horton Bolitho and Mr. Wallis.

Tregaseal—Mr. Horton Bolitho and Mr. Thomas.

The Dartmoor Avenues—Mr. Worth.

The following have helped me in many ways, among them with advice and criticism:—Principal Rhys, Dr. Wallis Budge, Dr. J. G. Frazer, and Mr. A. L. Lewis.

The assistance so generously afforded in the case of

p. vii

[paragraph continues] Stonehenge by Colonel Johnston, R.E., in furnishing me with accurate azimuths was continued for the monuments subsequently investigated till his retirement. To his successor, Colonel R. C. Hellard, R.E., I am already under deep obligations.

For the use of some of the Illustrations my thanks are due to the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Institute of British Architects, Messrs. Macmillan, and Mr. John Murray.

I have to thank Mr. Rolston, F. R. A. S., one of my staff, for assistance in the computations involved.


     17th May, 1906.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:39:40 pm
p. xi


 STENNESS (Lat. 59´ N.)
 THE HURLERS (Lat. 50° 31´ N.)
 STANTON DREW (Lat. 51° 10´ N.)
 p. x



Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:41:25 pm
p. xi

 Present Sun Worship in Japan
 The Celestial Sphere, Conditions at the North Pole
 The Celestial Sphere, Conditions at the Equator
 The Celestial Sphere, Conditions in a Middle Latitude
 The Four Astronomical Divisions of the Year
 The Various Bearings of the Sun Risings and Settings in N. latitude 51°
 The Astronomical and Vegetation Divisions of the Year
 Original Tooling of the Stones at Stonehenge
 View of Stonehenge front the West
 Copy of Hoare's Plan of Stonehenge, 1810
 The Leaning Stone in 1901
 The Axis of the Temple of Karnak
 Plan of the Temple of Ramses II. in the Memnonia at Thebes
 One of the remaining Trilithons at Stonehenge
 General Plan of Stonehenge
 The Arrangements for raising the Stone
 The Cradle and Supports
 The Frame used to locate the Finds
 Some of the Flint Implements
 Showing the careful Tooling of the Sarsens
 Face of Rock against which a Stone was made to rest
 The Leaning Stone Upright
 Stonehenge, 1905
 Map of the Stones made by the Ordnance Survey
 Rod placed in the Common Axis of the Circle and Avenue
 Alignments at Le Ménec
 Menhir on Melon Island
 Melon Island, showing Menhir and Cromlech
 Menhirs of St. Dourzal
 p. xii
 Alignment at Lagatjar (photograph)
 Alignments at Lagatjar (plan)
 Menhirs on Solstitial and May Alignments
 Diagram for finding Declination from given Amplitudes or Azimuths in British Latitudes
 Declinations of Northern Stars from 250 A.D. to 2150 B.C.
 Declinations of Southern Stars from 250 A.D. to 2150 B.C.
 The Conditions of Sunrise at the Summer Solstice in Lat. 59´ N
 The Azimuths of the Sunrise (upper limb) at the Summer Solstice. Late. N. 59°-47°
 Maeshowe and the Stones of Stenness
 Chief Sight-Lines from the Stones of Stenness
 Variation of the Obliquity of the Ecliptic 100 A.D.-4000 B.C.
 The Sight-Lines at the Hurlers
 The Southern Avenue at Merrivale, looking East
 Avenues, Circle and Stones at Merrivale, with their Azimuths
 Cursus at Stonehenge, nearly parallel to the Merrivale Avenue
 The remains of the Challacombe Avenue
 The Sight-Lines at Trowlesworthy
 The Circles and Avenues at Stanton Drew
 The Carro, Florence
 Cresset-Stone, Lewannick
 First Appearance of May Sun in British Latitudes
 Azimuths of the May Sunrise
 The Merry Maidens
 25-inch Ordnance Map of Merry Maidens showing Alignments
 The Eastern Circle at Tregaseal
 Photograph of Ordnance Map showing Sight-lines
 Plan of the Mên-an-Tol
 Photograph of the Mên-an-Tol
 The Mên-an-Tol. Front View and Section
 Photograph of the Ordnance Map of Boscawen-un
 Diagram showing Azimuths of Sunrise 1680 B.C. and 1905 A.D.
 Arcturus and Capella as Clock-Stars in Britain
 A Night-Dial
 Layard's Plan of the Palace of Sennacherib
 Layard's Plan of the Mound at Nimrood
 The Temples at Chichen Itza



Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:46:08 pm
p. 1


IN the book I published ten years ago, entitled "The Dawn of Astronomy," I gave a pretty full account of the principles and the methods of observation which enable us to trace the ideas which were in the minds of the ancient Egyptians when they set out the line of a temple they proposed to build.

Numerous references to the ceremonial of laying the foundation-stones of temples exist, and we learn from the works of Chabas, Brugsch, Dümichen 1 and others, that the foundation of an Egyptian temple was associated with a series of ceremonies which are repeatedly described with great minuteness. Amongst these ceremonies, one especially refers to the fixing of the temple-axis; it is called, technically, "the stretching of the cord," and is not only illustrated by inscriptions on the walls of the temples of Karnak, Denderah and Edfu—to mention the best-known cases—but is referred to elsewhere.

p. 2

During the ceremony the king proceeded to the site where the temple was to be built, accompanied mythically by the goddess Sesheta, who is styled "the mistress of the laying of the foundation-stone."

Each was armed with a stake. The two stakes were connected by a cord. Next the cord was aligned towards the sun on some day of the year, or a star, as the case might be; when the alignment was perfect the two stakes were driven into the ground by means of a wooden mallet. One boundary wall parallel to the main axis of the temple was built along the line marked out. by this stretched cord.

If the moment of the rising or setting of the sun or star were chosen, as we have every reason to believe was the case, seeing that all the early observations were made on the horizon, it is obvious that the light from the body towards which the temple was thus aligned would penetrate the axis of the temple from one end to the other in the original direction of the cord.

We learn from Chabas that the Egyptian word which expresses. the idea of founding or laying the foundation-stone of a temple is Senti—a word which still exists in Coptic. But in the old language another word Pet-ser, which no longer remains in Coptic, has been traced. It has been established that pet means to stretch, and ser means cord, so that that part of the ceremonial which consisted in stretching a cord in the direction of a star was considered of so great an importance that it gave its name to the whole ceremonial.

Dealing with the existing remains of Egyptian temples, it may be said that the most majestic among them was that of Amen-Rā at Karnak, dedicated to the Sun-God,

p. 3

and oriented, to catch the light, of the sun setting at the summer solstice, the time of the year at which the all-important rise of the Nile began.

Although the sun is no longer worshipped in Egypt or Britain, sun-worship has not yet disappeared from the world. Professor Gowland has recently 1 brought to notice a surviving form of sun-worship in Japan. I quote his statement:—

"There on the seashore at Fûta-mi-ga-ura (as will be seen in a copy of a print which I obtained at that ancient place) the orientation of the shrine of adoration is given by two gigantic rocks which rise from the sea as natural pillars. The sun as it rises over the mountains of the distant shore is observed between them, and the customary prayers and offerings made in that direction (Fig. 1).

"It is, too, specially worthy of note that the point from which the sun is revered is marked by a structure of the form of a trilithon, but made of wood, placed immediately behind the altar. This representative of the trilithon is of very remote date in Japan, and has been in use there from the earliest times in connection with the observances of the ancient Shintō cult in which the Sun-Goddess is the chief deity. One of its important uses, which still survives, was to indicate the direction of the position of some sacred place or object of veneration, in order that worshippers might make their prayers and oblations towards the proper quarter."

The table of offerings must also be noted.

In the book to which I have referred, I also endeavoured to show that a knowledge of even elementary

p. 4

astronomy may be of very great assistance to students of archæology, history, folk-lore and all that learning which deals with man's first attempts to grasp the

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:46:53 pm

FIG. 1.—Present sun worship in Japan.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:47:09 pm
meaning and phenomena of the universe in which he found himself before any scientific methods were available to him; before he had any idea of the origins or the conditionings of the things around him.

p. 5

It may be well, however, in the present book to restate the underlying astronomical principles in the briefest possible manner; and this is the more easily done because, in the absence of measuring instruments, the horizon was the only circle which the ancient peoples could employ effectively, and we need only therefore consider it.

Indeed, whether we regard the Rig-Veda or the Egyptian monuments from an astronomical point of view, we are struck by the fact that the early worship

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:47:44 pm

FIG. 2.—The celestial sphere, conditions at the North Pole. A parallel sphere. N.P., North celestial Pole; N., position of observer.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:48:07 pm
and all the early observations related to the horizon. This was true not only for the sun, but for all the stars which studded the general expanse of sky.

We have therefore chiefly to consider the relation of the horizon of any place to the apparent movements of celestial bodies at that place.

We now know that the earth rotates on its axis, but this idea was of course quite unknown to these early peoples. Since the earth rotates, with stars infinitely removed surrounding it on all sides, the apparent movements of the stars will depend very much upon

p. 6

the position we happen to occupy on the earth. An observer at the North Pole of the earth, for instance,

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:48:35 pm

FIG. 3.—The celestial sphere, conditions at the Equator. A right sphere, Q, standpoint of observer; PP, the celestial poles; EW, east and west points.

would see the stars moving round in circles parallel to the horizon (Fig. 2). No star could therefore either rise

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:49:02 pm

FIG. 4.—The celestial sphere, conditions in a middle latitude. An oblique sphere. In this woodcut DD´ shows the apparent path of a circumpolar star; BB´B″, the path and rising and setting points of an equatorial star; CC´C″ and AA´A″, those of stars of mid declination, one north and the other south; O, standpoint of observer.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:49:29 pm
or set—one half of the heavens would be always visible above his horizon, and the other half invisible. An observer at the South Pole would of course see that

p. 7

half of the stars invisible to the observer at the northern one.

If the observer be on the equator, the movements of the stars will appear to be as indicated in this diagram (Fig. 3)—that is, all the stars will rise and set, and each star will be, in turn, twelve hours above the horizon, and the same time below it. But if we consider the position of an observer in a middle latitude, say at Stonehenge, we find that some stars will always be above the horizon, some always below—that is, they will neither rise nor set. All other stars will both rise and set, but some of them will be above the horizon for a long time and below for a short time, whereas others will be a very short time above the horizon and a long time below it, each star completing a circle in a day (Fig. 4).

Wherever we are upon the earth we always imagine that we are on the top of it. The idea held by all the early peoples was that the surface of the earth near them was an extended plain: they imagined that the land that they knew and just the surrounding lairds were really in the centre of the extended plain. Plato, for instance, was content to think the Mediterranean and Greece upon the top of a cube, and Anaximander placed the same region at the top of a cylinder.

By the use of a terrestrial globe we can best study the conditions of observation at the poles of the earth, the equator and some place in middle latitude. The wooden horizon of the globe is parallel to the horizon of a place at the top of the globe, which horizon we can represent by a wafer. By inclining the axis of the globe and watching the movement of the wafer as the

p. 8

globe is turned round, we can get a very concrete idea of the different relations of the observer's horizon to the apparent paths of the stars in different latitudes.

We have next to deal with the astronomical relations of the horizon of any place, in connection with the observation of the sun and stars at the times of rising or setting, when of course they are on or near the horizon; and in order to bring this matter nearer to the ancient monuments, we will study this question for both Thebes and Stonehenge. We .may take the latitude of Thebes as 25°, Stonehenge as 51°, and we will begin with Thebes.

To consider an observer on the Nile at Thebes and to adjust things properly we must rectify a celestial globe to the latitude of 25° N., or, in other words, incline the axis of the globe at that angle to the wooden horizon.

Since all the stars which pass between the North Pole and the horizon cannot set, all their Apparent movements will take place above the horizon. All the stars between the horizon and the South Pole will never rise. Hence, stars within the distance of 25° from the North Pole will never set at Thebes, and those stars within 25° of the South Pole will never be visible there. At any place the latitude and the elevation of the pole are the same. It so happens that many of those places with which archeologists have to do in studying the history of early peoples—Chaldæa, Egypt, Babylonia, &c.—are in low middle latitudes, therefore we have to deal with bodies in the skies which do set and bodies which do not, and the elevation of the pole is neither very great nor very small. But

p. 9

although in each different latitude the inclination of the equator to the horizon as well as the elevation of the pole will vary, there will be a strict relationship between the inclination of the equator at each place and the elevation of the pole. Except at the poles themselves the equator will cut the horizon due east. and due west; therefore every celestial body to the north of the celestial equator which rises and sets will cut the horizon between the east and west point and the north point; those bodies which do not rise will of course not cut the horizon at all.

The stars near the equator, and the sun, in such a latitude as that of Thebes, will appear to rise or set at no very considerable angle from the vertical; but when we deal with stars very near to the north or south points of the horizon they will seem to skim along the horizon instead of rising directly.


We now pass on to Stonehenge. To represent the new condition the axis of the globe will now require to be inclined 51° to the horizon. The number of northern stars which do not set and of southern stars which do not rise will be much greater than at Thebes. The most northern and southern stars visible will in their movement hug the horizon more closely than was observed under the Thebes condition.

The sun, both at Thebes and Stonehenge, since it moves among the stars from 23½° N. to 23½° S. each year, will change its place of rising and setting at different times of the year.

Now it will at once be obvious that there must be a strict law connecting the position of a star with its

p. 10

place of rising or setting. Stars at the same distance from the celestial pole or equator will rise or set at the same point of the horizon, and if a star does not change its place in the heavens it will always rise or set in the same place.

The sun as it changes its position each day, in its swing N. and S. of the equator, will rise and set on any day in the same place as a star which permanently has the same distance from the equator as that temporarily occupied by the sun.

Here it will be convenient to introduce one or two technical terms we generally define a star's place by giving, as one ordinate, its distance in degrees from the equator: this distance is called its declination.

Further, we generally define points on the horizon by dividing its whole circumference into 360°, so that we can have azimuths up to 90° from the north and south points to the east and west points. We also have amplitudes from the east and west points towards the north and south points. We can say, then, that a star of a certain declination, or the sun when it occupies that declination, will rise or set at such an azimuth, or at such an amplitude. This will apply to both north and south declinations.

Then supposing the azimuth to be. 39° in the N.E. quadrant, it is written N. 39° E. For the other quadrants we have N. 39° W., S. 39° E., and S. 39° W., respectively.

The following table gives the amplitudes of rising or setting (north or south) of celestial bodies having declinations from 0° to 64°, at Thebes and Stonehenge respectively.

p. 11

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:50:07 pm


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.


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

3:1 "Archæologia," vol. lviii.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:50:56 pm
p. 12


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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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°.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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—

 Spring equinox,
 March 21.
 Summer solstice,
 June 21.
 Autumn equinox,
 September 23.
 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.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:53:35 pm
p. 17


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:—

 May 6.
Autumn (φθινόπωρον)
 August 11.
 November 10.
 February 7.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

 May 9.
 August 8.
 November 9.
 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—


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,

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:55:55 pm
p. 25


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:—


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


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.

 April 28
 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?


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.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 11, 2009, 11:57:43 pm
p. 34


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

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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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. 8).

p. 46

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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:21:03 am
the monument than the English who have visited it at different times for different purposes. It is said the

p. 47

fall of one great stone was caused in 1620 by some excavations, but this has been doubted; the fall of another in 1797 was caused by gipsies digging a hole in which to shelter, and boil their kettle; many of the stones have been used for building walls and bridges; masses weighing from 56 lb. downwards have been broken off by hammers or cracked off as a result of fires lighted by excursionists.

It appears that the temenos wall or vallum, which is shown complete in Hoare's plan of 1810, is now broken down in many places by vehicles indiscriminately driven over it. Indeed, its original importance has now become so obliterated that many do not notice it as part of the structure—that, in fact, it bears the same relation to the interior stone circle as the nave of St. Paul's does to the Lady Chapel (Fig. 10).

It is within the knowledge of all interested in archæology that not long ago Sir Edmund Antrobus, the owner of Stonehenge, advised by the famous Wiltshire local society, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Society of Antiquaries, enclosed the monument in order to preserve it from further wanton destruction, and—a first step in the way of restoration—with the skilled assistance of Prof. Gowland and Messrs. Carruthers, Detmar Blow and Stallybrass, set upright the most important menhir, which threatened to fall or else break off at one of the cracks. This. menhir, the so-called "leaning stone," once formed one of the uprights of the trilithon the fall of the other member of which is stated by Mr. Lewis to have occurred before 1574. The latter, broken in two pieces,

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:21:49 am

FIG. 11.—The Leaning Stone in 1901.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:22:12 am
and the supported impost, now lie prostrate across the altar stone.

This piece of work was carried out with consummate

p. 49

skill and care, and most important conclusions; as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, were derived from the minute inquiry into the conditions revealed in the excavations which were necessary for the proper conduct of the work.

Let us hope that we have heard the last of the work of devastators, and even that, before long, some of the other larger stones, now inclined; or prostrate, may be set upright.

Since Sir Edmund Antrobus, the present owner, has acted on the advice of the societies I have named to enclose the monument, with a view to guard it: from destruction and desecration, he has been assailed on all sides. It is not a little surprising that the "unclimbable wire fence" recommended by the societies in question (the Bishop of Bristol being the president of the Wiltshire society, at the time) is by some regarded as a suggestion that the property is not national, the fact being that the nation has not bought the property, and that, it has been private property for centuries, and treated in the way we have seen.

Let us hope also that before long the gaps in the vallum may be filled up. These, as I have already stated, take away from the meaning of an important part of one of the most imposing monuments of the world. In the meantime it comforting to know that, thanks to what Sir Edmund Antrobus has done, no more stones will be stolen, or broken by sledge-hammers; that fires; that excavations such as were apparently the prime cause of the disastrous fall of one of the majestic trilithons in 1797; that litter, broken bottles

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and the like, with which too many British sightseers mark their progress, besides much indecent desecration, are things of the past.

If Stonehenge had been built in Italy, or France, or Germany, it would have been in charge of the State long ago.


I now pass from the monument itself to a reference to some of the traditions and historical statements concerning it.

Those who are interested in these matters should thank the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Society, which is to be warmly congratulated on its persistent and admirable efforts to do all in its power to enable the whole nation to learn about the venerable monuments of antiquity which it has practically taken under its scientific charge. It has published two most important volumes 1 dealing specially with Stonehenge, including both its traditions and history.

With regard to Mr. Long's memoir, it may be stated that it includes important extracts from notices of Stonehenge from the time of Henry of Huntingdon (twelfth century) to Hoare (1812), and that all extant information is given touching on the questions by whom the stones were erected, whence they came, and' what was the object of the structure.

From Mr. Harrison's more recently published bibliography, no reference to Stonehenge by any ancient author, no letter to the Times for the last twenty

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years dealing with any question touching the monuments, seems to be omitted.

It is very sad to read, both in Mr. Longs volume and the bibliography, of the devastation which has been allowed to go on for so many years and of the various forms it has taken.


As almost the whole of the notes which follow deal with the assumption of Stonehenge having been a solar temple, a short reference to the earliest statements concerning this view is desirable; and, again, as the approximate date arrived at by Mr. Penrose and myself in 1901 is an early one, a few words may be added indicating the presence in Britain at that time of a race of men capable of designing and executing such work. I quote from the paper communicated by Mr. Penrose and myself to the Royal Society:—

“As to the first point, Diodorus Siculus (ii., 47, ed. Didot, p. 116) has preserved a statement of Hecatæus in which Stonehenge alone can by any probability be referred to.

“‘We think that no one will consider it foreign to our subject to say a word respecting the Hyperboreans.

"'Amongst the writers who have occupied themselves with the mythology of the ancients, Hecatæus and some others tell us that opposite the land of the Celts. [ἐν τοῖς ἀντιπέραν τῆς Κελτικῆς τόποις] there exists in the Ocean an island not smaller than Sicily, and which, situated under the constellation of The Bear, is inhabited by the Hyperboreans; so called because they live beyond the point from which the North wind. blows. . . . If one may believe the same mythology, Latona was born in

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this island, and for that reason the inhabitants honour Apollo more than any other deity. A sacred enclosure [νῆσον] is dedicated to him in the island, as well as a magnificent circular temple adorned with many rich offerings. . . . The Hyperboreans are in general very friendly to the Greeks.'"

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:22:27 am
“The Hecatæus above referred to was probably Hecatæus of Abdera, in Thrace, fourth century B.C.; a friend of Alexander the Great. This Hecatæus is said to have written a history of the Hyperboreans that it was Hecatæus of Miletus, an historian of the sixth century B.C., is less likely.

“As to the second point, although we cannot go so far back in evidence of the power and civilisation of the Britons, there is an argument of some value to be drawn from the fine character of the coinage issued by British kings early in the second century B.C., and from the statement of Julius Cæsar ('De Bello Gallico,' vi., c. 14) that in the schools of the Druids the subjects taught included the movements of the stars, the size of the earth, and the nature of things (multa præterea de sideribus et eorum motu, de mundi magnitudine, de rerum natura, de deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant et juventuti tradunt).

"Studies of such a character seem quite consistent with, and to demand, a long antecedent period of civilisation."

Henry of Huntingdon is the first English writer to refer to Stonehenge, which he calls Stanenges. Geoffrey of Monmouth (1138) and Giraldus Cambrensis come next.

In 1771, Dr. John Smith, in a work entitled "Choir Gawr, the Grand Orrery of the Ancient Druids, called

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[paragraph continues] Stonehenge, Astronomically Explained, and, proved to be a Temple for Observing the, Motions of the Heavenly Bodies," wrote as follows:—

"From many and repeated visits, I conceived it to be an astronomical temple; and from what I could recollect to have read of it, no author had as yet investigated its uses. Without, an instrument or any assistance whatever, but White's 'Ephemeris,' I began my survey. I suspected the stone called The Friar's Heel to be the index that would disclose the uses of this structure; not was I deceived. This stone stands in a right line with the centre of the temple, pointing to the north-east. I first drew a circle round the vallum of the ditch and divided it into 360 equal parts; and then a right line through, the body of the temple to the Friar's Heel; at the intersection of these lines I reckoned the sun's greatest amplitude at the summer solstice, in this latitude, to be about 60 degrees, and fixed the eastern points accordingly. Pursuing this plan, I soon discovered the uses of all the detached stones, as well as those that formed the body of the temple."

With regard to this "Choir Gawr," translated Chorea Gigantum, Leland's opinion, is quoted,(Long, p. 51) that we should read Choir vawr, the equivalent of which is Chorea nobilis or magna. 1

In spite of Inigo Jones's (1600) dictum that Stonehenge was of Roman origin, Stukeley came to the conclusion in 1723 that the Druids were responsible for

p. 54

its building; and Halley, who visited it in 1720—probably with Stukeley—concluded from the weathering of the stones that it was at least 3000 years old; if he only had taken his theodolite with him, how much his interest in the monument would have been increased!


35:1 See especially Nature, July 2, 1891 p. 201.

35:2 Gardner, Paisley and London.

37:1 "The Prehistoric Stone Monuments of the British Isles—Cornwall."

39:1 "The French Stonehenge: An Account of the Principal Megalithic Remains in the Morbihan Archipelago." By T. Cato Worsfold, F.R.Hist.S., F.R.S.I. (London: Bemrose and Sons, Ltd.)

50:1 The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine: "Stonehenge and its Barrows." By William Long, M.A., F.S.A. 1876. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine: "Stonehenge Bibliography Number." By W. Jerome Harrison. 1902.

53:1 Mr. Morien Morgan informs me that Cor y Gawres is correct, and means Choir of the Giantess: Cariadwen, the Welsh Neith, Nyth (Nydd).


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:42:29 am
p. 55


ALTHOUGH I have before hinted that the astronomical use of the Egyptian temples and British circles was the same, there is at first sight a vast difference in the general plan of structure.

This has chiefly depended upon the fact that the riches and population of ancient Egypt were so great that that people could afford to build a temple to a particular star, or to the sun's position on any particular day of the year. The temple axis along the line pointing to the celestial body involved, then became the chief feature, and tens of years were spent in lengthening constricting and embellishing it.

From on end of an Egyptian. temple to the other we find the axis marked out by narrow apertures in the various pylons, and many walls with doors crossing the axis. There are seventeen or eighteen; of these apertures in the solar temple of Amen-Rā at Karnak, limiting the light which into the Holy of Holies or Sanctuary. This construction gives one a very definite impression that every part of the temple was built to subserve a special object, viz., to limit the sunlight which fell on its front into a narrow beam,

p. 56

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:43:33 am

FIG. 12.—The axis of the Temple of Karnak, looking south-east, from outside the north-west pylon (from a photograph by the author).

and to carry it to the other extremity of the temple—into the sanctuary, where the high priest performed

p. 57

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:44:24 am

FIG. 13.—Plan of the Temple of Ramses II. in the Memnonia at Thebes Lepsius), showing the pylon at the open end, the various doors along the axis, the sanctuary at the closed end, and the temple at right angles.

p. 58

his functions. The sanctuary was always blocked. There is no case in which the beam of light can pass absolutely through a temple (Figs. 12 and 13).

In Britain the case was different, there was neither skill nor workers sufficient to erect such stately piles, and as a consequence one structure had to do the work of several and it had to be done in the most economical way. Hence the circle with the observer at the centre and practically a temple axis in every direction among which could be chosen the chief directions required, each alignment being defined by stones, more or less distant, or openings in the circle itself.

Now for some particulars with regard to those parts of Stonehenge which lend themselves to the inquiry.

The main architecture of Stonehenge consisted of an external circle of about 100 feet in diameter, composed of thirty large upright stones, named sarsens, connected by continuous lintels. The upright stones formerly stood 14 feet above the surface of the ground. Then have nobs or tenons on the top which fit into mortice holes in the lintels. Within this peristyle there was originally an inner structure of ten still larger upright stones, arranged in the shape of a horseshoe, formed by five isolated trilithons which rose progressively from N.E. to S.W., the loftiest stones being 25 feet above the ground. About one-half of these uprights have fallen, and a still greater number of the imposts which they originally carried.

There is also another circle of smaller upright stones, respecting which the only point requiring notice now is that none of them would have interrupted the line of the axis of the avenue. The circular temple was also

p. 59

surrounded by the earthen bank, shown in Fig. 15, of about 300 feet in diameter, interrupted towards the

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:45:23 am

FIG 14.—One of the remaining Trilithons at Stonehenge

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:46:08 am
north-east by receiving into itself the banks forming an avenue before mentioned; which is about 50 feet acres.

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Within this avenue, no doubt an old via sacra, and looking north-east from the centre of the temple, at about 250 feet distance and considerably to the right hand of the axis, stands an isolated stone, which from a mediæval legend has been named the Friar's Heel.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:49:17 am

FIG. 15.—General plan; the outer circle, naos and avenue of Stonehenge. F.H. = Friar's Heel.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:49:37 am
The axis passes very nearly centrally through an ... columniation (so to call it) between two uprights ... the external circle and between the uprights of the northernmost? trilithon as it originally stood. Of this ... on the southernmost upright with the lintel ... fell in 1620, but the companion survived as the

p. 61

leaning stone which formed a conspicuous and picturesque object for many years, but happily now restored to its original more dignified and safer condition of verticality. The inclination of this stone, however, took place in the direction of the axis of the avenue, and as the distance between it and its original companion is known both by the analogy of the two perfect trilithons and by the measure of the mortice holes on the lintel they formerly supported, we obtain by bisection the distance, 11 inches, from its edge, of a point in the continuation of the central axis of the avenue and temple.

The banks which form the avenue have suffered much degradation. It appears from Sir Richard Colt Hoare's account that at the beginning of the last century they were distinguishable for a much greater distance than at present, but they are still discernible, especially on the northern side, for more than 1300 feet from the centre of the temple, and particularly the line of the bottom of the ditch from which the earth was taken to form the bank, and which runs parallel to it.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:52:22 am
p. 62


AN investigation was undertaken by Mr. Penrose and myself in the spring of 1901, as a sequel to analogous work in Egypt and Greece, with a view to determine whether the orientation theory could throw any light upon the date of the foundation of Stonehenge, concerning which authorities vary in their estimates by some thousands of years. Ours was not the first attempt to obtain the date of Stonehenge by means of astronomical considerations. In Mr. Godfrey Higgins’ work 2 he refers to a method of attack connected with precession. This furnished him with the date 4000 B.C.

More recently, Prof. W. M. Flinders Petrie, 3 whose plan of the stones is a valuable contribution to the study of Stonehenge, was led by his measures of the orientation to a date very greatly in the opposite direction, but, owing to an error in his application of the change of obliquity, clearly a mistaken one.

The chief astronomical evidence in favour of the

p. 63

solar temple theory lies in the fact that the "avenue," as it is called, formed by two ancient earthen banks, extends for a considerable distance from the structure, in the general direction of the sunrise at the summer solstice, precisely in the same way as in Egypt a long avenue of sphinxes indicates the principal outlook of a temple.

These earthen banks defining the avenue do not exist alone. As will be seen from the sketch plan (Fig. 15), there is a general common line of direction for the avenue and the principal axis of the structure; and the general design of the building, together with the position and shape of the naos, indicates a close connection of the whole temple structure with the direction of the avenue. There may have been other pylon and screen equivalents as in other ancient temples; which have disappeared, the object being to confine the illumination to a small part of the naos. There can be little doubt, also, that the temple was originally roofed in, and that the sun's first ray, suddenly shining into the darkness, formed a fundamental part of the cultus.

With regard to the question of the roof, however, the above suggestion, I now find, is not new, the view having been held by no less an authority than Dr. Thurnham, who apparently was led to it by the representations of the Scandinavian temples as covered and enclosed structures.

Since the actual observation of sunrise was doubtless made within the sanctuary itself, we seem justified in taking the orientation of the axis to be the same as that of the avenue, and, since in the present state of the S. W. trilithon the direction of the avenue can

p. 64

probably be determined with greater accuracy than that of the temple axis itself, the estimate of date must be based upon the orientation of the avenue. Further evidence will be given, however, to show that the direction of the axis of the temple, so far as it can now be determined, is sufficiently accordant with the direction of the avenue.

The orientation of this avenue, may be examined upon the same principles that have been found successful in the case of Greek and Egyptian temples—that is, on the assumption that Stonehenge was a solar temple, and that the greatest function took place at sunrise on the longest day of the year. This not only had a religious motive; it had also the economic value of marking officially and distinctly that time of the year and the beginning of an annual period.

It is, indeed, possible that the present structure may have had other capabilities, such as being connected with the May year, the equinoxes or the winter solstice; but it is with its uses at the summer solstice alone that we now deal.

There is a difference in treatment between the observations required for Stonehenge and those which are available for Greek or Egyptian solar temples. In the case of the latter, the effect of the precession of the equinoxes upon the stars, which as warning clock stars were almost invariably connected with those temples, offers the best measure of the dates of foundation; but in Britain, owing to the brightness of the dawn at the summer solstice, such a .star could not have been employed, so that we can rely only on the secular change of the obliquity as affecting the azimuth of the

p. 65

point of sunrise. This requires the measurements to be taken with very great precision, and as the azimuth of the place of sunrise varies with the latitude, and as a datum point on the horizon in a known position was also required, Colonel Johnston, R.E., the Director-General of the Ordnance Survey, was asked for and obligingly supplied the following particulars:

Centre of stone circle, Stonehenge
 ... ...
Long. W.
Centre of spire, Salisbury Cathedral
 ... ...

The real point was to determine the direction of the so-called avenue. Measurements taken from the line of the bottom of the ditch assisted materially those taken from the crown of the bank itself. With this help and by using the southern bank and ditch whenever it admitted of recognition a fair estimate of the central line could be arrived at. To verify this, two pegs were placed at points 140 feet apart along the line near the commencement of the avenue, and four others at distances averaging 100 feet apart nearer the further recognisable extremity, and their directions were measured with the theodolite, independently by two observers, the reference point being Salisbury Spire, of which the exact bearing had been communicated by Colonel Johnston.

This bearing was also measured locally by observations of the Sun and of Polaris, the mean of which differed by less than 20″ from the Ordnance value. The resulting observations gave for the axis of the avenue nearest the commencement an azimuth of 49° 38´ 48″, and for that of the more distant part

p. 66

[paragraph continues] 49° 32´ 54″. The mean of these two lines drawn from the central interval of the great trilithon, already referred to, passes between two of the sarsens of the exterior circle, which have an opening of about 4 feet, within a few inches of their middle point, the deviation being northwards. This may be considered to prove the close coincidence of the original axis of the temple with the direction of the avenue.

This value of the azimuth, the mean of which is 49° 35´ 51″, is confirmed by the information, also supplied from the Ordnance Survey, that from the centre of the temple, the bearing to the N.E. of the principal bench mark on a hill, about 8 miles distant, the bench mark being very near a well-known ancient fortified British encampment named Silbury or Sidbury, is 49° 34´ 18″; and that the same line continued through Stonehenge, to the south-west, strikes another ancient fortification, namely, Grovely Castle, about 6 miles distant, and at practically the same azimuth, viz., 49° 35´ 51″. For the above reasons 49° 34´ 18″ has been adopted for the azimuth of the avenue.

The summer solstice sunrise in 1901 was also watched for by Mr. Howard Payn on five successive mornings, viz., June 21 to 25, and was successfully observed on the last occasion. As soon as the Sun's limb was sufficiently above the horizon for its bisection to be well measured, it was found to be 8´ 40″ northwards of the peak of the Friar's Heel, which was used as the reference point; the altitude of the horizon being 35´ 48″. The azimuth of this peak from the point of observation had been previously ascertained to be 50° 39´ 5″, giving for that of the Sun when measured, 50°

p. 67

[paragraph continues] 30´ 25″; by calculation that of the Sun, with the limb 2´ above the horizon, should be 50° 30´ 54″. This observation was therefore completely in accordance with the results which had been obtained otherwise.

The time which would elapse between geometrical sunrise, that is, with the upper limb tangential with the horizon, and that which is here supposed, would be about 17 seconds, and the difference of azimuth would be 3´ 15″.

The remaining point was to find what value should be given to the Sun's declination when it appeared showing itself 2´ above the horizon, the azimuth being 49° 34'´ 18″.

The data obtained for the determination of the required epoch were as follows:—

(1.) The elevation of the local horizon at the sunrise point seen by a man standing between the uprights of the great trilithon (a distance of about 8000 feet) is about 35´ 30″, and 2´ additional for Sun's upper limb makes 37´ 30″.

(2.) - Refraction + parallax, 27´ 20″.

(3.) Sun's semi-diameter, allowance being made for greater eccentricity than at present, 15´ 45″.

(4.) Sun's azimuth, 49° 34´ 18″, and N. latitude, 51° 10´ 42″.

From the above data the Sun's declination works out 23° 54´ 30″ N., and by Stockwell's tables of the obliquity, which are based upon modern determinations of the elements of the solar system, 1 the date is found to be 1680 B.C.

It is to be understood that on account of the slight uncertainty as to the original line of observation and the

p. 68

very slow rate of change in the obliquity of the ecliptic, the date thus derived may possibly be in error by 200 years more or less; this gives us a date of construction lying between say 1900 and 1500 B.C.

In this investigation the so-called Friar's Heel was used only as a convenient point for reference and verification in measurement, and no theory was formed as to its purpose. It is placed at some distance, as before mentioned, to the south of the axis of the avenue, so that at the date arrived at for the **** of the temple the Sun must have completely risen before it was vertically over the summit of the stone. It may be remarked, further, that more than 500 years must yet elapse before such a coincidence can take place at the beginning of sunrise.

In an Appendix certain details of the observations are given.

In the next chapter I propose to show that an independent archæological inquiry carried out, in a most complete and admirable way, just after Mr. Penrose and myself had obtained our conclusion, entirely corroborates the date at which we had arrived.


62:1 This chapter and the end of the previous one are mainly based the paper communicated by Mr. Penrose and myself to the Royal Society (see Proceedings, Royal Society, vol. 69, p. 137 et seq.

62:2 The Celtic Druids. 4to. London. 1827.

62:3 Stonehenge, &c. 1880.

67:1 Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. xviii. No. 232, table 9. Washington. 1873. For curve, see page 130.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:53:38 am
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SOON after Mr. Penrose and myself had made our astronomical survey of Stonehenge in 1901, some archæological results of the highest importance were obtained by Professor Gowland. The operations which secured them were designed and carried out in order to re-erect the leaning stone which threatened to fall, a piece of work recommended to Sir Edmund Antrobus by the Society of Antiquaries of London and other learned bodies, and conducted at his desire and expense.

They were necessarily on a large scale, for the great monolith, "the leaning stone," is the largest in England, the Rudston monolith excepted. It stood behind the altar stone, over which it leant at an angle of 65 degrees, resting at one point against a small stone of sycnite. Halfway up it had a fracture one-third across it; the weight of stone above this fracture was a dangerous strain on it, so that both powerful machinery and great care and precautions had to be used. Professor Gowland was charged by the Society of Antiquaries with the conduct of the excavations necessary in the work. The engineering operations were planned by Mr. Carruthers, and Mr. Detmar Blow was responsible for the local superintendence.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:54:45 am

FIG. 16.—The arrangements for raising the stone, looking north-east.

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:55:41 am

FIG. 17.—The cradle and supports, looking west.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:56:16 am
Mr. Blow thus describes the arrangements (Journal Institute of British Architects, 3rd series, ix., January, 1902):—

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"A strong cradle of 12-inch square baulks of timber was bolted round the stone, with packing and felt, to prevent any marking of the stone. To the cradle were fixed two 1-inch steel eyebolts to receive the blocks for two six-folds of 6-inch ropes. These were secured and wound on to two strong winches fifty feet away, with four men at each winch. When the ropes were thoroughly tight, the first excavation was made as the stone was raised on its west side."

The method employed by Professor Gowland in the excavation should be a model for all future work of the kind.

Above each space to be excavated was placed a frame of wood, bearing on its long sides the letters A to H, and on its short sides the letters R M L, each letter being on a line one foot distant from the next. By this means the area to be excavated was divided into squares each having the dimension of a square foot. A long rod divided into 6-inch spaces, numbered from 1 to 16, was also provided for indicating the depth from the datum line of anything found. In this way a letter on the long sides of the frame, together with one on the short sides, and a number on the vertical rod, indicated the position of any object found in any part of the excavation.

Excavations were necessary because to secure the stone for the future the whole of the adjacent soil had to be removed down to the rock level, so that it could be replaced by concrete.

All results were registered by Professor Lowland in relation to a datum line 337.4 feet above sea level. The material was removed in buckets, and carefully sifted through a series of sieves 1-inch, ½-inch, ¼-inch, and

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:58:40 am

FIG. 18—The frame used to locate the finds

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 12:59:01 am
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[paragraph continues] ⅛-inch mesh, in order that the smallest object might not be overlooked.

From the exhaustive account of his work given by Professor Gowland to the Society of Antiquaries (Archaeologia, lviii.), I gather three results of the highest importance from the point of view I am considering. These were, first, the finding of an enormous number of implements; secondly, the disposition and relative quantities of the chippings of the sarsen and blue stones; and thirdly, the discovery of the method by which the stones were originally erected.

I will take the implements first. This, in a condensed form, is what Professor Gowland says about them:—

More than a hundred flint implements were found, and the greater number occurred in the stratum of chalk rubble which either directly overlaid or was on a level with the bed rock. They may all be arranged generally in the following classes

Class I.—Axes roughly chipped and of rude forms, but having well-defined, more or less sharp cutting edges.

Class II.—Hammerstones, with more or less well-chipped, sharp curved edges. Most may be correctly termed hammer-axes. They are chipped to an edge at one end, but at the other are broad and thick, and in many examples terminated there by a more or less flat surface. In some the natural coating of the flint is left untouched at the thick end.

Class III.—Hammerstones, more or less rounded. Some specimens appear to have once had distinct working edges, but they are now much blunted and battered by use.

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In addition to the above flint implements were found about thirty hammerstones, consisting of large pebbles or small boulders of the hard quartzite variety of sarsen. Some have been roughly broken into convenient forms for holding in the hand, whilst a few have been rudely trimmed into more regular shapes. They vary in weight from about a pound up to six and a half pounds. To these we have to add mauls, a more remarkable kind of hammerstone than those just enumerated. They are ponderous boulders of the quartzite variety of sarsen with their broadest sides more or less flat. Their weights range from about 40 lb. to 64 lb.

How came these flints and stones where they were found? Prof. Gowland gives an answer which everybody will accept. The implements must be regarded as the discarded tools of the builders of Stonehenge, dumped down into the holes as they became unfit for use, and, in fact, used to pack the monoliths as they were erected. We read:—"Dealing with the cavity occupied by No. 55 before its fall, the mauls were found wedged in below the front of its base to act together with the large blocks of sarsen as supports" (p. 54). Nearly all bear evidence of extremely rough usage, their edges being jagged and broken, just as we should expect to find after such rough employment. We evidently have to deal with builders doing their work in the Stone and not in the Bronze age. But was the age Palæolithic or Neolithic?

Prof. Gowland writes:—

"Perhaps the most striking features of the flint implements is their extreme rudeness, and that there

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is not a single ground or polished specimen among them. This, at first sight and without due consideration, might be taken to indicate an extremely remote age. But in this connection it must be borne in mind that in the building of such a stupendous structure as Stonehenge, the tools required must have been numbered by thousands. The work, too, was of the roughest character, and for such only rude tools were required. The highly finished and polished implements which we are accustomed to consider, and rightly so, as characteristic of Neolithic man, would find no place in such work. They required too much labour and time for their manufacture, and, when made, could not have been more effective than the hammer-axes and hammer-stones found in the excavations, which could be so easily fashioned by merely rudely shaping the natural flints, with which the district abounds, by a few well directed blows of a sarsen pebble."

On this ground Prof. Gowland is of opinion that, notwithstanding their rudeness, they may be legitimately ascribed to the Neolithic age, and, it may be, near its termination, that is, before the Bronze age, the commencement of which has been placed at 1400 B.C. by Sir John Evans for Britain, though he is inclined to think that estimate too low, and 2000 B.C. by Montelius for Italy.

Prof. Gowland guardedly writes:—

"The occurrence of stone tools does not alone prove with absolute certainty that Stonehenge belongs to the Neolithic age, although it affords a strong presumption in favour of that view. But, and this is important, had bronze been in general or even moderately extensive

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:00:28 am

FIG. 19.—Some of the Flint Implements

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:01:39 am
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use when the stones were set up, it is in the highest degree probable that some implement of that metal would have been lost within the area of the excavations, and if so lost, it would certainly have been found together with the stone tools. Further, the employment of deer's horn picks for the extensive excavations made in the chalk around the base of the monoliths also tends to support the view that bronze implements cannot have been in common use. If they had it would seem not unreasonable to assume that they would have been employed, as they would have been so much more effective for such work than the picks of deer's horn.

"Again, the chippings of the stones of Stonehenge in two of the Bronze age barrows 1 in its neighbourhood show that it is of earlier date than they."

And finally:—

"In my opinion, the date when copper or bronze was first known in Britain is a very remote one, as no country in the world presented greater facilities for their discovery. The beginning of their application to practical uses should, I think, be placed at least as far back as 1800 B.C., and that date I am inclined to give, until further evidence is forthcoming, as the approximate date of the **** of Stonehenge."

Now the date arrived at by Mr. Penrose and myself on astronomical grounds was about 1700 B.C. It is not a little remarkable that independent astronomical and archæological inquiries conducted in the same year

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should have come so nearly to the same conclusion. If a general agreement be arrived at regarding it, we have a firm basis for the study of other similar ancient monuments in this country.

I have previously in this book referred to the fact that the trilithons of the naos and the stones of the outer circle are all built up of so-called "sarsen" stones. To describe their geological character, I cannot do better than quote, from Mr. Cunnington's "Geology of Stonehenge," 1 their origin according to Prestwich.

“Among the Lower Tertiaries (the Eocene of Sir Charles Lyell) are certain sands and mottled clays, named by Mr. Prestwich the Woolwich and Reading beds, from their being largely developed at these places, and from these he proves the sarsens to have been derived; although they are seldom found in situ, owing to the destruction of the stratum to which they belonged. They are large masses of sand concreted together by a siliceous cement, and when the looser portions of the stratum were washed away, the blocks of sandy rocks were left scattered over the surface of the ground.

“At Standen, near Hungerford, large masses of sarsen are found, consisting almost entirely of flints, formed into conglomerate with the sand. Flints are also common in some of the large stones forming the ancient temple of Avebury.

"The abundance of these remains, especially in some of the valleys of North Wilts, is very remarkable. Few persons who have not seen them can form an adequate

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idea of the extraordinary scene presented to the eye of the spectator, who standing on the brow of one of the hills near Clatford, sees stretching for miles before him, countless numbers of these enormous stones, occupying the middle of the valley, and winding like a mighty stream towards the south."

These stones, then, may be regarded as closely associated with the local geology.

The exact nature of the stones, called "blue stones," can best be gathered from a valuable "Note" by Prof. Judd which accompanies Prof. Gowland's paper. These blue stones are entirely unconnected with the local geology; they must, therefore, represent boulders of the Glacial drift, or they must have been brought by man, from distant localities. Prof. Judd inclines to the first opinion.

The distinction between these two kinds of stone are well shown by Prof. Gowland:—

“The large monoliths of the outer circle, and the trilithons of the horse-shoe are all sarsens. [See general plan, Fig. 15.] These sarsens in their composition are sandstones, consisting of quartz-sand, either fine or coarse, occasionally mixed with pebbles and angular bits of flint, all more or less firmly cemented together with silica. They are the relics of the concretionary masses which had become consolidated in the sandstone beds that once overlaid the chalk of the district, and had resisted the destructive agencies by which the softer parts of the beds were removed in geological times. They range in structure from a granular rock resembling loaf sugar in internal appearance to one of

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great compactness similar to and sometimes passing into quartzite.

“The monoliths and trilithons all consist of the granular rock. The examples of the compact quartzite variety, of which many were found in the excavations, were almost without exception either hammerstones that glad been used in shaping: and dressing the monoliths, or fragments which had been broken from off them in these operations.

“The small monoliths, the so-called 'blue stones,' which form the inner circle and the inner horse-shoe, are, with the undermentioned exceptions, all of diabase more or less porphyritic. Two are porphyrite (formerly known as felstone or hornstone). Two are argillaceous sandstone.

“Mr. William Cunnington, in his valuable paper, 'Stonehenge Notes,' records the discovery of two stumps of 'blue stones' now covered by the turf. One of these lies in the inner horseshoe between Nos. 61 and 62, and 9 feet distant from the latter. It is diabase. The other is in the inner circle between Nos. 32 and 33, 10 feet from the former, and consists of a soft calcareous altered tuff, afterwards designated for the sake of brevity fissile rock.

"The altar stone is of micaceous sandstone."

I now come to the second point, to which I shall return in the next chapter.

In studying the material obtained from the excavations, it was found in almost every case that the number of chippings and fragments of blue stone largely exceeded that of the sarsens; more than this, diabase

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[paragraph continues] (blue stone) and sarsen were found together in the layer overlying the solid chalk (p. 15). Chippings of diabase were the most abundant, but there were few large pieces of it. Sarsen, on the other hand, occurred most abundantly in lumps (p. 20); very few small chips of

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:02:58 am

FIG. 20.—Showing the careful tooling of the Sarsens.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:03:11 am
sarsen were found (p. 42). Hence Prof. Gowland is of opinion that the sarsen blocks were roughly hewn, where they were found (p. 40); the local tooling, executed with the small quartzite hammers and mauls, would produce not chips but dust.

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Finally, I reach the third point of importance from the present standpoint; the excavations produced clear evidence touching the mode of ****. Prof. Gowland's memoir deals only with the leaning stone, but I take

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:03:55 am

FIG. 21.—Face of rock against which a stone was made to rest.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:04:07 am
it for granted that the same method was employed throughout: the method was this.

(1) The ground in the site a stone was to occupy was removed, the chalk rock being cut into in such a manner as to leave a ledge, on which the base of the stone was to rest, and a perpendicular face rising from it, against which as a buttress one side would bear when set up. From the bottom of this hole an inclined plane was cut to the surface down which the monolith which

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had already been dressed was slid until its base rested on the ledge.

(2) It was then gradually raised into a vertical position by means first of levers and afterwards of ropes. The levers would be long trunks of trees, to one end of which a number of ropes was attached (this method is still employed in Japan); so that the weights and pulling force of many men might be exerted on them. The stronger ropes were probably of hide or hair, but others of straw, or of withes of hazel or willow, may have been in use for minor purposes.

(3) As the stone was raised, it was packed up with logs of timber and probably also with blocks of stone placed beneath it.

(4) After its upper end had reached a certain elevation, ropes were attached to it, and it was then hauled by numerous men into a vertical position, so that its back rested against the perpendicular face of the chalk which had been prepared for it. During this part of the operation, struts of timber would probably be placed against its sides to guard against slip, a precaution taken when the leaning stone was raised and until the foundation was properly set.

As regards the raising of the lintels, and imposts, and the placing of them on the tops of the uprights, there would be even less difficulty than in the **** of the uprights themselves.

It could be easily effected by the simple method practised in Japan for placing heavy blocks of stone in position. The stone, when lying on the ground, would be raised a little at one end by means of long wooden levers. A packing of logs would then be placed under

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:04:56 am

FIG. 22.—The leaning stone upright before the struts were removed.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:05:11 am
the end so raised, the other extremity of the stone would be similarly raised and packed, and the raising and packing at alternate ends would be continued

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Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:05:47 am

FIG. 23.—Stonehenge, 1905.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:06:00 am
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until the block had gradually reached the height of the uprights. It would then be simply pushed forward by levers until it rested upon them.

It is not often that an engineering operation has been made so subservient to the interests of science as the one we have dealt with in this chapter. It is satisfactory to know not only that much new knowledge has been acquired by Professor Gowland and his coadjutors, but that the famous leaning stone has now been set upright in such fashion that it will remain upright for hundreds of years. May the other leaning stones soon receive the same treatment.


78:1 Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Ancient history of South Wiltshire, p. 127. (London, 1812); W. Stukeley, Stonehenge, p. 46. (London, 1740).

79:1 Wilts. Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, xxi. pp. 141-149.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:06:48 am
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WHEN we come to examine Stonehenge carefully in relation to the orientation theory, it soon becomes clear that its outer circle of upright stones with lintels, and the inner naos, built of trilithons, oriented in the line of the "avenue" and the summer solstice sunrise, are not the only things to be considered. These stones, all composed of sarsen, which, be it remarked, have been trimmed and tooled, are not alone in question. We have:—

(1) An interior circle broken in many places, and other stones near the naos, composed of stones, "blue stones," which, as we have seen, are of an entirely different origin acid composition.

(2) Two smaller untrimmed sarsen stones lying near the vallum, not at the same distance from it, the line joining them passing nearly, but not quite, through the centre of the sarsen circle. The amplitude of the line joining them is approximately 26° S. of E. and 26° N. of W. Of these stones, the stump of the N.W. one is situated 22 feet from the top of the vallum according to the Ordnance plan. The S.E. stone has fallen, but according to careful observations and

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measurements by Mr. Penrose, when erect its centre was 1.4 feet from the top of the vallum. The centre of the

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:07:35 am

FIG. 24.—Map of the Stones made by the Ordnance Survey. A, N.W. stone; B, S.E. stone; C, Friars Heel; D, Slaughter stone.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

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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.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

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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.


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.


Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:11:55 am
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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

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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

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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

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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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:13:01 am

FIG. 26.—Alignments at Le Ménec.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

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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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:15:45 am

FIG. 27.—Menhir (A) on Melon Island.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:17:45 am

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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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.

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[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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:22:46 am

FIG. 29.—Menhirs of St. Dourzal, D, E, F.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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

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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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:25:04 am

FIG. 30.—Alignment at Lagatjar, G G´.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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,

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[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

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman 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.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:26:56 am
attention. Between two monuments, M and N, on a solstitial line, sometimes other menhirs are noticed, the line joining them being inclined 12° to the solstitial line, always towards the east" (Fig 32).

I must call particular attention to this important observation of Lieutenant Devoir, for it gives us the amplitude 24° N., the direction of sunrise at the beginning of the May and August years. It shows, moreover, that, as at Le Ménec according to M. Gaillard, the solstitial and May-August directions were both provided

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for at the monuments in the neighbourhood of Brest so carefully studied by Lieutenant Devoir.

Lieutenant Devoir points out the wonderful regularity of form and the fine polish of many of the menhirs. It will have been gathered from his account that those most carefully trimmed and tooled belong to the solstitial alignments. The one at Kerloas (11 metres high) heads

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:27:38 am

FIG. 32.—Menhirs, M N on N.E.-S.W. solstitial alignment. Menhirs 1, 2, on May-August years alignment, sunrise May-August, sunset November-February.

Title: Re: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered
Post by: Ericka Bowman on January 12, 2009, 01:28:09 am
the list in point of size; others in the island of Melon (7 metres), at Kergadion (8 metres and 10 metres), Kerenneur, Kervaon and Kermabion follow suit. He considers them to have been erected at the time of the highest civilisation of the Megalithic peoples. He also states that these regularly formed menhirs do not exist at Carnac, or in the region of Pont l’Abbé, so rich in other remains which certainly refer chiefly to the May-November year. It seems, then, that in these localities

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the May-August worship first chiefly predominated, and that the index menhirs of M. Gaillard which indicate the solstice and which do not form part of the alignments were erected subsequently.

Finally, then, the appeal to Brittany is entirely in favour of the May-November year worship having preceded the solstitial one.

I have already stated the evidence at Stonehenge that the sunrise at the beginning of the May and August years was observed in an earlier temple which existed before the present structure existed. Were this so we have another point common to the British and Breton monuments. I therefore think that I may justly claim the Brittany evidence as entirely in favour of the suggestion put forward in Chap. IX with regard to Stonehenge.


97:1 "L’Astronomie Prehistorique." Published in "Les Sciences Populaires, revue mensuelle internationale," and issued separately by the administration des "Sciences populaires," 15 Rue Lebrun, Paris.