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Open letter to science editors

 

KRONOS Vol IX, No. 1

Forum

STONEHENGE - A CALENDAR?

To the Editor of KRONOS:

Alban Wall's "A Calendric View of Stonehenge" (KRONOS VIII:2, pp. 35-46) promises a major breakthrough in understanding the purpose of Stonehenge. However. since the Sun marker completes a revolution around the Aubrey Circle in 13 x 28 = 364 days, one day a year must be skipped and an additional day must be skipped every four years to keep in step. Only with such an adjustment can one end up with exactly 247 revolutions in 19 years (pp. 37-38).

Presumably, this was done at the summer solstice; and the correction was at first based on observation until a rule such as suggested above was devised. Accurate observation of the solstices and the equinox, especially the winter solstice, is possible via the shadow of a pole planted on Silbury Hill, which was evidently constructed for such a purpose. The tip of the shadow would fall at the foot of the hill at the equinoxes, the brow at summer solstice, and an outlying marker at winter solstice (per Moses B. Cotsworth, as described by Peter Tompkins in Secrets of the Great Pyramid, pp. 127-130).

William J. Douglas

Rockville, MD


To the Editor of KRONOS:

I am writing in reference to Alban Wall's article, "A Calendric View of Stonehenge", that appeared in KRONOS VIII:2. The article is quite interesting and well written, but several questions come to mind.

Hawkins, Hoyle, and now Wall agree that the Aubrey Holes were used for movable markers. However, R. J. C. Atkinson, the archaeologist who has probably done the most work at Stonehenge, pre-dates the Aubrey Holes to the final structure by about 900 years. If this is the case, it is doubtful that the holes were visible at the later stage of Stonehenge, the holes being quite probably filled in. Before the final stage of construction at the site, earthen mounds where two of the Station Stones are embedded completely cover some of the Aubrey Holes (17, 18, and part of 19).(1) Further, if these holes were used strictly as markers, what is the significance of the cremated remains that were in many of the holes. These remains are apparently from the same time period attributed to the holes, not from a later date.

Concerning the Sarsen Stones, Wall states the purpose of the 30 stones as a means of "continuous synchronization with the phases of the Moon during each lunation" (p. 38). As the author stated, a lunation is 291/2 days. Wouldn't it have been easier to make one stone half the size of the others to keep exact count? In fact, one of the stones is noticeably shorter than the others but I find no indication of this fact in the article.

The variation in the height of the Trilithons and the incorporation [of them] in the overall scheme of Stonehenge by Mr. Wall is extremely interesting - to a point. He states that these stones "point to, and symbolize, the 5 major phases [of the Moon] " (p. 45). Although the symbology could be there, I more readily agree with Stover and Kraig when they state: "If [the five Trilithons] were indeed intended to fix lines of sight with events on the horizon their position is so inexact as to invalidate the purpose."(2) In support of this, I add the following by Atkinson: "The observed irregularity of the alignments and sectors is thus at variance with the known capabilities of the builders, and with the precision and order which is implied by their apparent interest in geometry and mensuration."(3)

Although Wall's treatment of the Bluestone Horseshoe with the YR stone is interesting, what is the significance of the Q and R holes in relation to the overall plan?(4) I see no information presented on these holes by the author.

The Heel Stone, a most important feature of the machine, presents somewhat of a small problem to me which was not addressed (understandably) by Wall. Why was this stone (and the Station Stone, for that matter) the only stone of the many that was not "dressed"?(5) This would appear to me as marking the stone to the builders/users as being less important than the purpose we of later times ascribe to it. But then if the importance of the Heel Stone is lessened, would not the overall purpose of the "machine" be changed?

Certainly Wall's research is more extensive than is shown in this article; I can accept this. But, in my opinion, any discussion of Stonehenge must include at least a note on the Altar Stone. Being at the very center of the complex, and considering the importance of a center position to such people, this stone must be mentioned. The rising Sun on June 21 does strike the Altar Stone before the ground, according to some researchers, lending credence to a possible religious significance to the event (discarding the name applied to the Stone).

I question any attempt to make Stonehenge a calendar. The basic reasons for having a calendar by such early people must have been to predict seasons and eclipses. Stonehenge does seem to be aligned with celestial indicators of the four main seasons; that is to be expected of farmers, herders, and sea navigators. However, hundreds of years of recorded observation went into compiling the first astronomical/astrological handbooks of Mesopotamia. Precision enough to predict eclipses did not arrive to the Babylonians until about 600 B.C. The Maya, in carving their calendrical notations in stone, made use of writing and a numerical system - a resource not available to nonliterate societies by definition. It is therefore doubtful, in my mind, that this massive undertaking could have been accomplished in one continuous feat by one group of people; and the work is even more doubtfully a calendar of the type that Mr. Wall (and others) ascribe to it.

The author fails to mention many other features of Stonehenge that could have an effect on his presentation. In addition to those previously mentioned, some items that require interpretation are the Avenue and the stone holes between the Heel Stone and entrance way; the post holes to either side of the Heel Stone on the entrance way side and the many post holes in the entrance way; the stone hole at the east side of the entrance way, nearly in the ditch. Why was there no mention of the ditch or the North and South Mounds, the Station Stone, the Greene, the Cursus, or the Slaughter Stone? What of the most recent find, the so-called car park post holes?

I have been to Stonehenge on many occasions, and the complex is awesome. Mr. Wall's treatment of the site is interesting and no doubt the inaccuracies and omissions that seem (to me) to be there will be cleared up in later articles. I look forward to the author's future writings and congratulate him on his work to date.

One question before ending this letter. Would not the ability of Stonehenge as a calendar be improbable to discover in light of the various catastrophes occurring in the 15th and 8th/7th centuries B.C.? Or at least, would not the overall observation be different?

Michael D. Hawkinson

Barksdale AFB, LA

REFERENCES

1 . L. E. Stover and B. Kraig, Stonehenge: The Indo-European Heritage (Chicago, 1978), p. 121.
2. Ibid
3. Ibid., pp. 121-122.
4. R. J. C. Atkinson, Stonehenge: and Neighboring Monuments (HMSO, 1978).
5. Ibid., p. 18.

ADDITIONAL READING

A. Service and J. Bradbery, Megaliths and Their Mysteries (N.Y., 1979). C. A. Newham, The Astronomical Significance of Stonehenge (Leeds, 1972).


Alban Wall Replies:

Michael W. Pitts of the Keiller Museum, Avebury, in a paper he presented in Archaeoastronomy IV:2 (1982), concerning certain pedalogical studies he undertook at Stonehenge in 1979, made the following significant comment:

"This consideration of the Station Stones and the Aubrey Holes, like the description of the newly discovered stone 97, is presented principally to exemplify an unavoidable, if inconvenient, problem concerning Stonehenge. We really know very little indeed of the nature and sequence of activities and structures at the site. . . . there will always remain a substantial element of hypothesis and assumption in archaeological models that describe Stonehenge." (Emphases mine)

[*!* Image] Drawing No. 1. Orientation of the Trilithon Horseshoe Axis, Sta's 91 & 92, the N and S mounds, and the traverse Aubrey Circle Axis to the north edge of the Heel Stone.

Note: GT to HS = 14 to 42 = 284'.

[*!* Image] Drawing No. 2. How the double Bluestone Circles would have been used to keep track of the 19 years of the Calendric cycle in half-year increments. Note the placement of the extra hole at the 9-year point, which thus marks mid-cycle. These circles were never quite completed but were torn down to make room for the Sarsen Circle which was put up shortly after. They were superseded in function by the simpler yet just as effective 19-Bluestone Horseshoe.

It is only an unproved assumption that the Aubrey Holes were overgrown, invisible or forgotten by the time the final stage of construction at Stonehenge took place. These holes were originally filled with chalk rubble for a specific purpose - easy visibility - and it is my opinion that they were in, or put into, that same condition when the Sarsen Circle was erected. The two mounds at holes 17-18-19 and 44-45-46-47, even if they completely hid those holes, which I do not believe they did, would have had no negative effect on the operation of the calendar device. The South Mound encompassed 1 day and the North Mound 2 days of the Aubrey day-counting circle, significant facts that I will be discussing comprehensively in a future paper.

That cremated remains have been found in some of the holes is not surprising. Stonehenge and the surrounding area was holy ground, a temple within a sacred precinct. (Are not the remains of noted personages reposited in various cathedrals throughout modern-day Europe?) At what point in time these remains were placed inside the holes is an unanswered question. Most probably this interment occurred irregularly over an extended period. In any case, they had no bearing on the calendric function of the monument.

The evidence for the theory that Stonehenge constituted a calendrical device based on the 19-year Sun-Moon (Metonic) cycle, derives from three principal sources:

(1) Internal (structure design)
(2) Historical testimony
(3) Related documentary evidence

Items 2 and 3 will be addressed in detail in future articles. To this point, I have dealt mainly with the internal evidence of the structure itself. In so far as this is concerned, the extremely close-meshed relationship to each other of the various elements and the fact that these components perfectly conjoin in function over the exact 19-year period of the Metonic cycle, argue most cogently for the theory. It is no accident that the 4 quarter points of the Aubrey Circle Holes 56, 14, 28 and 42 - are so accurately lined up with the 4 quarter points of the Sarsen Circle - Arch 30, Stone 8, Arch 15 and Stone 23. Nor is it an accident that the Heel Stone, though offset relative to the Arenue axis, does line up on the axis of the Trilithon Horseshoe. The exactitude of these alignments is shown in Drawing No. 1.

Further compelling testimony to the embodiment of the 19-year cycle in the monument is to be found in the uncompleted double Bluestone circle shown, in reconstructed form, in Drawing No. 2.

It is clear to me that the ancient builders of Stonehenge invariably considered time in one-half increments - days, months, years, etc. Thus it is that in the Stonehenge scheme 2 holes of the Aubrey Circle, not just 1, counted for 1 day. Also, 1 Sarsen Arch plus 1 Sarsen Megalith constituted 1 full day. Note that there are 38 divisions in the double bluestone circle. Dividing 38 by 2 we get 19. It is thus logical to look for, and find, one extra hole that has been placed half-way between divisions 9 and 10 at the bottom of the two circles. This specific hole, so situated, lies at the exact mid-point of the calendar cycle, that is to say, at year 9.

The double Bluestone Circle can thus be seen to have been a forerunner of the 19 Bluestone Horseshoe that eventually ranged inside the Trilithon formation. Before the double Bluestone Circle was completed, a change of plans evidently took place; it was at this time that the grand idea for erecting the megalithic Sarsen Circle was conceived. The double Bluestone Circle was torn down to make room for the giant edifice, and the former was subsequently superseded in function by the simpler, yet just as effective, 19 Bluestone Horseshoe. Half years, in this device, could easily have been designated by moving the YR marker half-way between consecutive stones.

With regard to the other points raised by Mr. Hawkinson, many of them will be covered in detail in future articles. Among these are the Q and R holes, the Avenue, stone holes inside the Heel Stone, the Mounds and the Station Stones. The ditch was discussed in a previous article. The Slaughter Stone, in my opinion, was used in conjunction with the Heel Stone as an azimuth marker and this, too, will be discussed in a future paper.

The Greene and the Cursus seem not to have been related to Stonehenge in its calendric aspect and therefore lie beyond the range of my studies.

The undressed condition of the Heel Stone and Station Stones is no doubt due to the fact that they were used merely as markers; they did not form part of the temple proper that stood at the center of the site. The latter included the Sarsen Circle, The Trilithons and the 19-Bluestone Horseshoe, and these received the special shaping and dressing befitting the pillars and columns of a temple of worship.

The Altar Stone may have been indeed what its name implies, or, as some have suggested, an observation platform. Since its original position in the monument has not certainly been established, I did not feel justified in incorporating it into the calendar scheme.

With respect to the variation in the heights of the Trilithons, these megalithic components were not intended to be used as sighting elements for azimuths of celestial bodies in the horizon. Nor have I claimed that they do, in fact, mark Moon or Sun positions. Their positioning in the monument is such that each of them is in line with the center of the monument and with specific arches (days) of the Sarsen Moon Circle in 5 arch (day) increments. In this manner each Trilithon symbolizes a specific phase of the Moon as that body waxes and wanes from new to full to new. The Trilithons do not point to the actual position of the Moon in the sky. As the Moon waxes bigger, the Trilithons become larger. As the Moon then wanes smaller, so the Trilithons become smaller. At arch 30 where the Moon marker-stone indicates new Moon, there is no Trilithon at all; which is to say, no Trilithon, no Moon.

The small stone, number 11, in the Sarsen Circle, could not have been used to indicate a half-day in the lunar month device, except in a symbolic way. In an actual counting procedure, it is only numbers and not size that can be registered. (We do not, for example, count 4 fingers on each hand.) The purpose of the small stone would rather have been to indicate the specific point where, in a 2-month count, 1 megalith was to be skipped over entirely.Thus, in its first circuit of the Circle, the marker would have rested one day at each stone for a total of 30 days. In the succeeding circuit of the Circle the marker would skip stone 11 altogether and complete its journey in 29 days. The average of the 2 circuits would thus be 29 days.

William J. Douglas perceptively noted and pointed out that, in the scheme of the calendar, 1 additional day would have to be intercalated each year and another every 4 years. My original article on the use of the Aubrey Circle as a solar day-counting device, KRONOS IV: I (Fall, 1978), pp. 29-44, took cognizance of this fact.

As to the skepticism expressed by Mr. Hawkinson regarding the concept of Stonehenge as a calendar, I ask nothing more than that the reader maintain an open mind and continue to weigh and examine carefully the arguments that have been, and will be, presented. I can assure him, and others who may be interested in the subject, that exciting and startling evidence for the calendar concept will be forthcoming shortly.

It may be that the final construction date for what eventually stood on Salisbury Plain, in integrated completeness, actually lies on this side of the catastrophes postulated by Velikovsky.

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