Monday, 25 March 2013

Stonehenge's alignment to Solstice

 
The alignment 
It's well known that Stonehenge is aligned to the Solstices. At Britain's latitude, the winter solstice sunset is only just over two degrees different from the opposing direction at summer solstice. At Stonehenge, the hills to the north east make the sun appear just that little bit later, which means that the two events are even closer than you would find on a flat plain. 

A posteriori evidence 
There is evidence from places such as Newgrange that the solstices may have been important to some Neolithic people. Sunrise at winter solstice produces a beam of light which shines down the Newgrange passage.


However, Newgrange is a long way from Stonehenge. It was constructed hundreds of years earlier. It also looks nothing like Stonehenge. Stonehenge does not appear to do anything special with the beams of sunlight, so the best we can say is that Newgrange (and similar monuments which are known to have a solstice function) might provide a fairly weak (a posteriori) link if the monuments are of the same type. 

The evidence of alignments 
Stonehenge has multiple alignments with solstice. Its Avenue points towards summer solstice sunrise (albeit downwards). The monument is arranged on an axis which points in about the right direction for either summer solstice sunrise or winter solstice sunset. 


From the centre of the monument, there is an alignment to summer solstice through stones 1 and 30 (1). There is also an alignment through blue-stones 31 and 49 (2). The Avenue is aligned (3) and so is the slaughter-stone (4) and its companions (if its companions existed). There also an alignment through the Great Trilithon (5). Some argue that the heel-stone, though not aligned, would be aligned if it's companion existed at the same time (which evidence in the way of a ditch shows that it did not).

But Stonehenge is a symmetrical monument. Any symmetrical building layout will generate multiple alignments. For example, if an entrance door of any symmetrical building faces solstice, it will be aligned to solstice (1) from the hallway in exactly the same way that Stonehenge's 30-01 stones do. If its lobby is symmetrical, it will also generate alignment (2) through the lobby door in exactly the same way that the blue-stones referred to do. If it has a path leading to the door, that will generate the same solstice alignment (3) as the Avenue. If two garden gnomes are placed either side of the path, that will generate the same alignment (4) as the slaughter-stone and its pair. If the kitchen is behind the hall, the kitchen door will generate the same alignment (5) as the Great Trilithon. The door to the conservatory generates extra alignments (6,7) that Stonehenge does not have and the path gate creates yet another alignment (8) not seen at Stonehenge.


All this without having the problem of the heel-stone, which does not align, even with its pair stone-hole. Nor with the problem of the Altar Stone, which does obstruct the view of the setting solstice sun through the trilithons. 

The odds
Stonehenge is aligned to solstice, but only in the same way that a house might also be aligned purely by chance. Turn it round forty degrees and it aligns east. Forty more and it meets winter solstice sunrise. There is at best a 1 in 60 chance that it points in a correct direction by chance and chance alone. Given that we are looking for something which shows what Stonehenge was for, our finding something (that fits with our preconceptions) reduces the odds to perhaps only slightly better than 50/50.

Is there anyone who knows of more proof or evidence that supports the solstice argument? I'm not against the idea; I just don't see the evidence.


6 comments:

  1. There's also a discussion of the same question in the hyperlink here

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  2. [Also posted on the Megalithic Portal thread]

    Hi Jon.
    I'm not a big fan of the 'House Analogy', for many of the same reasons mentioned by George.

    As you know, I am firmly in the Intentional Solstice Design court, and here's why.
    With Stonehenge as just a cemetery in the beginning, the NE Causeway was 'close enough' to SSSR, as were a few other monuments.
    We both know that they fouled-up the Aubrey layout because of inconsistencies in the East/West Horizons.
    How they screwed up the Southern Entrance has yet to be determined, as North is easy, but it would be interesting to find out precisely where Thuban was during that period, as this might lend a clue.

    I believe it was only a very short time before they realized their layout error, but determined that, as a cemetery, it didn't really matter. The Altar Stone, in my opinion, was always recumbent, and this idea is bolstered by finding the two old post-holes placed specifically at either end of it.

    When the Monument began to morph into something more sophisticated, S-97, S-B & S-C were placed in incorrect positions, but all 3 are positioned precisely to the East of the line. This was all long before there was an Avenue.

    I believe that the knowledge to correct these errors was unavailable at the time, so the Monument was abandoned in frustration, though probably still used as a graveyard.
    Upon return they fixed the mistakes by re-setting S-97 into its present location and moving B & C to the D & E locations, though it's possible that one of them is the Slaughter Stone. Its rough & ready working compliments that of the raw Heelstone, which makes me wonder if the other two were also hastily prepped.

    Anyway, the corrected alignment was achieved before the Trilithons went up and were positioned according to the new, more accurate Solstice line.
    Yes, any number of correlated alignments will occur in a symmetrical structure, but there's little doubt that the Trilithons and Circle are in their specific positions for Solstice reasons.

    If East is Life (Sunrise) and West is Death (Sunset), it's possible that the Summer Sunrise meant Fertility and Winter Sunrise meant Life Renewal.
    Having the WSSR light-passage at Newgrange (in the West) could be meant to usher a Noble into the Afterlife.
    The Southern Circle at Durrington Walls has the WSSR feature, and a very strong case can be made for one at SH as well (though perhaps as an afterthought.)

    Are the alignments stringently perfect? No -- not by modern standards. But they worked quite well to the naked eye. Whether or not Stonehenge was a Solar Demonstrator, this alignment served an intentional function.

    Best wishes my friend,
    Neil

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  3. Hi Neil

    How they screwed up the Southern Entrance has yet to be determined, as North is easy, but it would be interesting to find out precisely where Thuban was during that period, as this might lend a clue.

    Not that easy: You have to point a rod to Thuban and then drop a plumb-bob down. Unless to have a seriously long pole and a very heavy eight, a few degrees is easy.

    When the Monument began to morph into something more sophisticated, S-97, S-B & S-C were placed in incorrect positions, but all 3 are positioned precisely to the East of the line. This was all long before there was an Avenue.

    The trouble with 97, A, C is that they're slightly skewed relative to the avenue. Didn't notice it myself until MPP pointed it out in his book. Whether or not that means anything I don't know.

    Anyway, the corrected alignment was achieved before the Trilithons went up and were positioned according to the new, more accurate Solstice line.
    Yes, any number of correlated alignments will occur in a symmetrical structure, but there's little doubt that the Trilithons and Circle are in their specific positions for Solstice reasons.


    I think it would be nice if that were the starting point. It fits really well. But I don't think there's really any evidence other than it points in the right direction.

    Having the WSSR light-passage at Newgrange (in the West) could be meant to usher a Noble into the Afterlife.

    :-) Perhaps.

    All the best Neil. When are you over?

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  4. Hey Jon,

    Thuban was much farther away from True North than Polaris is today. This means that, depending on the time of year they employed it, it may have swung quite a bit in any direction, skewing their calculations. You can drop your plumb-bob all day long, but if your star is out to the left of center, you're gonna be wrong.

    You are using the Avenue as an illustration for your point when there was no Avenue at the time. S-97, B & C are in a straight line, relative to the Center.
    After they moved 97 to its present, more correct location, the Solstice Line occurred to the West of it. This is why the Heelstone isn't centered on the Avenue but the Solstice Alignment is reasonably accurate.

    I mention Newgrange because you did. There's a new school of thought which tie the major megalithic monuments together. Some of it is pretty interesting and follows 'our' conviction that these people knew a great deal more, and were far more sophisticated than have been given credit in the past.

    Now let's remove the Avenue.
    Remove the Heelstone and the Sighting Stones for that matter.
    We still have the wider spacing at S-1 & -30, BS-31 & -49. The straight sides of the Great Trilithon and the presumed spacing of S-15 & -16 are enough to show a Solstice probability. The faces of S-51 & S-60 are exactly the same distance away from the Axis, meaning they were centered.
    The Station Stones create a perpendicular to the Axis, which is the Solstice.

    Truthfully my old friend - I'm not sure I understand why you're off on this 'No Solstice' tangent.

    Best,
    Neil

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  5. Yes. Agreed: It's not easy to get a north direction. That's what I was trying to say!

    You are using the Avenue as an illustration for your point when there was no Avenue at the time. S-97, B & C are in a straight line, relative to the Center.

    Take a look at Mike Parker Pearson's book: page 309. In that he says (bottom of page) that the line of stones 97, B & C pointed to the moon standstill, not the solstice. Looking again at SIL, it does appear to be slightly rotated as he describes.

    Now let's remove the Avenue.
    Remove the Heelstone and the Sighting Stones for that matter.


    Everything that is left is generated by symmetry. The idea it's about alignments at this point is possible; but there's really no evidence as far as I can see. Any complex symmetrical structure generates alignments.

    But I agree it's about Solstice Neil: The diagram is all about Solstice. I just can't see the evidence that they thought it was all about alignments to morning sunrise/sunset at solstice for all the time it was in use.

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  6. Just to close this up: The geocentrism described at the Station Stones also shows and describes what Solstice was about. Since publishing the book (2013 version), we have found additional verification that this site was originally about solstice but that the solstice alignment was not the intent of the final stage of the build. When we do the third edition, I'll include this and show why.

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