Eternal Idol

The Greatest Story Never Told

“Hillside Henge” at Stonehenge…to the North West

July 22, 2010 - 9:28 pm

The internet’s positively alive with reports of the latest major discovery at Stonehenge, and it’s certainly very interesting indeed. You can read about it and watch an animation on the BBC news site, you can read a piece in the Independent, or you can read about it in this article from the Daily Mail.

There’s an excellent piece with graphics and photos on the Heritage Key site, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. Of course, I couldn’t be happier for Professor Gaffney and the others involved in this discovery, but I must confess that I’m mildly baffled by one or two of the recorded pronouncements.

For example, the BBC quotes Professor Gaffney as saying “”This is probably the first major ceremonial monument that has been found in the past 50 years or so. This is really quite interesting and exceptional, it starts to give us a different perspective of the landscape.” This rather begs the question of how we would describe the discovery of Bluestonehenge by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and the SRP, but as archaeologists are absolute sticklers for terminological exactitude, then I’m guessing that this new “Hillside Henge” is classified as ‘major, strictly on account of its size, but I must admit that I don’t really know.

The other aspect of this new discovery that I find mildly baffling is that, among the detailed & insightful coverage it’s received from science editors from the BBC and from some of our most prominent newspapers, there is not a solitary mention or suggestion of the fact that I predicted the discovery of such a structure here on Eternal Idol as far back as November 5th 2009 and long before that as well, during the course of my extensive writings about TANITH, or the alignment to the northwest of Stonehenge.

I should point out (again) that my prediction of important structures to the north-west of Stonehenge came about simply as as result of studying Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape, not through smoking copious amounts of marijuana or by discussing the matter with Elvis Presley while sitting on the Cursus barrows. Mike Pitts has just had a very good and informative piece published on the BBC news site, in which he mentions the possibility that the apparent ‘pits’ at Hillside Henge once held bluestones. I wrote a piece about a lost bluestone monument as far back as 2006, when the Stonehenge Riverside Project excavated a section near the western end of the Cursus in search of a bluestone monument whose existence was first postulated by Wiltshire archaeologist J F S Stone in 1947, because he had excavated an area near the Cursus and discovered a scatter of bluestone fragments with a marked concentration near the Cursus itself.

Newer visitors to Eternal Idol may be unaware of these posts from 2006, which is when I re-opened or re-launched the site after a difference of opinion with some hick firm of lawyers purporting to represent Wessex Archaeology, the archaeological ‘consultancy’ where I worked at the start of the decade. Round Two is shaping up nicely, I have to say, so we’ll just have to see what happens during the remainder of 2010.

Finally for now, on the subject of “Hillside Henge”, Juris Ozols, Alex Down and myself wrote extensively about “Stonehenge – The Undiscovered Country” in August of last year, but we’d naturally been investigating the evidence produced by LiDAR and other non-invasive methods for a long time before that. During the course of our studies, we’d seen this new discovery clearly marked on a LiDAR frame, where it was immediately apparent that some large structure lay to the north-west of Stonehenge, aligned with all the many other features I’d been writing about for years. Be that as it all may, none of the media outlets have seen fit to mention any of this in their detailed coverage…..oh, it’s sooooooo unfair! Ah well, you read it first here on Eternal Idol and I’ll continue to do my best to provide such material as & when time allows.

35 Responses to ““Hillside Henge” at Stonehenge…to the North West”

Alex Down wrote on July 22, 2010

I’m afraid that the arrow in the LiDAR image immediately above is misleading – I’m pretty sure that it points to a well-established barrow that’s plainly apparent on the 50K and 25K OS maps. Although the reports refer to a burial (ploughed-out barrow) in the centre, the barrows shown in the LiDAR image are very much visible, and I can’t believe the tractors carrying the geophysics kit would have driven over them. In addition, the barrow indicated is almost exactly 1000m from Stonehenge, while the new henge is reported to be 900m. My original estimate, working from my digital OS maps, placed it roughly between the arrowed barrow, and the west end of the line of Cursus barrows, making it 900m from Stonehenge, and I’ve had no reason to change my mind since.

The intriguing thing about this site is that it makes it the earliest structure to be placed anywhere near the Cursus (visible just beyond the line of barrows.) Of course, all the barrows in the landscape are Bronze Age, and therefore later, while the henge is Neolithic, and contemporaneous with Stonehenge, according to the geophysics team (though I wonder why they’re so certain.)

Earlier today, I suggested that the dimensions of the pits, averaging around 1m in diameter are, , according to data in SIIL, almost exactly the same as the Aubrey Holes, which are now believed to have held bluestones. So I was interested to see that Mike Pitts also raised the possibility in a report on the BBC website, while at the same time he wonders if they’re simply pits, as are found at other henge sites. I think that the discovery has been rushed to public attention with a view to gaining maximum publicity, without thinking through all the implications.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alun, Leicester Blogs. Leicester Blogs said: The location of the new henge [...]

Dennis wrote on July 22, 2010

“I think that the discovery has been rushed to public attention with a view to gaining maximum publicity, without thinking through all the implications.” Surely not? I noted a few possible flaws in the coverage myself, such as the complete lack of mention of Bluestonehenge, which only last year was being (rightly in my view) announced as one of the truly great Stonehenge-related discoveries. I’m sure there are a thousand and one very good reasons for this press release, Alex, and I find your cynicism positively shocking! Having said that, I was wondering about the pits myself. And the bluestones. And its classification as a henge. And as a temple. And how these people know it’s contemporary with Stonehenge, and so on, and so forth….

Dennis wrote on July 22, 2010

I’ve just been looking at the BBC news report on one of the link provided above, and I was fascinated to learn (after 36 seconds) that this new henge is “Aligned with Stonehenge itself…” If anyone can please tell me how, I’d be fascinated to learn it. Obviously, I could not be more interested to learn of this new structure and it’s of great interest to me to learn that it’s northwest of Stonehenge, so perhaps this is what the BBC correspondent was referring to?

Or then again, perhaps not.

My problem with alignments is this – how do you say that two structures are aligned, unless some other element is involved? I could say that the study in which I’m sitting writing this is aligned with Stonehenge, but it wouldn’t cut much ice with the academics, I suspect.

frank wrote on July 22, 2010

Stonehenge, its owners and Modern times

It’s all very interesting of course, the circle yes, but even more so with the phenomena of archaeologists all tripping over themselves to claim that theirs is the biggest discovery, bigging up their own part and diminishing the part of those who have gone before them. Each new discovery apparently adds to the knowledge of our ancestors and “telling their story”, and giving rise to yet another fashion of thought to become dogma for a year or two.

When making this observation, Dennis, I wonder if you like I sometimes wonder what they have added to this story, after desecrating hundreds of graves, removing grave goods, bombarding the earth with sonar, looking for EM fluctuations, carbon dating everything datable and having dug up two thirds of Stonehenge itself, leaving little by way of useful archaeology behind for the future?

Q: Who built Stonehenge?

A: Before Archaeology – Our Ancestors
A: After Archaeology – Still our Ancestors, but we can fight about what to call them

Q: What is Stonehenge?

A: Before Archaeology – A special place used by our Ancestors, probably a place to worship.
A: After Archaeology – Have a lot of wild guesses, but probably a place of worship

Q: When was Stonehenge Built?

A: Before Archaeology – A very long time ago, before history.
A: After Archaeology – A very long time ago, dates vary, but it is prehistoric.

Q: How did people live back then?

A: Before Archaeology – From folklore; in small communities of thatched roundhouses.
A: After Archaeology – From digging up half the landscape; in small communities of thatched roundhouses.

After rubbishing Druids and celebrants who gather at solstice to beat drums at between 10 and 20 Hertz to greet the turning of the seasons, they now suggest that our ancestors did the very same.

After dismissing the Druids and their connection with the monument, who refer to the “sacred land” in and around Stonehenge, now it’s officially a “sacred landscape”.

Archaeologists have collected lots of facts, discovered some long lost features, speculated a lot, poured scorn upon each other and especially upon the spiritual community and yet still have not produced anything close to an incontestable or even original insight into who built Stonehenge or why. Meanwhile, in their frenzy to out-do each other, will they leave a single corpse to rest, a stone unturned, or allow a sacred and mysterious landscape to remain simply that?

Alex Down wrote on July 22, 2010

The language is loose, but I’m pretty sure that what they mean (Daily Mail and the BBC on-screen reporter) is that the axial alignments are parallel. In other words, the NE-SW alignment of the axis of Stonehenge is parallel to the axis defined – very roughly! – by the two gaps in the ditch of the new henge.

I did wonder briefly if the alignment referred to the “other element”, Coneybury henge. The Independent article refers to another henge, 1.3km to the southeast, and this can only be Coneybury, discussed extensively in these pages in connection with the Bluestonehenge discovery. Coneybury, Stonehenge and the new henge are in a rough alignment, but do not form a straight line. It can only be the axial alignment that’s being discussed.

Angie Lake wrote on July 23, 2010

Dennis, those two bumps that the red arrow points to in the Lidar picture are two low barrows. I only know that for sure, because on the morning of 4th May I photographed them and posted the pics on the Megalithic Portal. If you scroll down this site page:
and look at the photos with my name beside them, dated 16th May, you’ll see what they look like on the ground. Here’s the smaller one nearest to the road:
It’s the first one I posted from my May visit, and is 7th up from the bottom of the site page. The ones above that are also from the same visit.
I met Alex that afternoon and we walked back to the west end of the Cursus intending for me to dowse there again. Later we climbed the stile into Fargo Woods and I dowsed for the site of the small henge.
I kept walking forwards, despite my rods swinging back sharply to my left. We even looked at The Monarch of the Plain [see below] outside the trees, before ‘giving in’ to the rods and following them, when we were led directly to a site near the barrow inside the trees, but near the fence to the Cursus area. I realised I’d got an entrance when my rods opened three times in succession, at right-angles to my forward movement. This always seems to denote ‘entering a sacred area’, and also happens on leaving the same. Alex checked this out with me. (.. And I was delighted to see he is a natural dowser!) I dowsed for entrances, and perimeter. finding two of the radii were 9 [of my] paces and two others 9.5 and 10 respectively.
Two days later we met again and Alex brought a photocopy of an old excavation record, giving a grid ref that seemed to match the site we’d found. In any case, it was close to the barrow inside the woods (not the large one further to the west, called The Monarch of the Plain, which is also shown on Meg P’s site page, lower down the list of pics), and there are a couple photos of that one, too, on the site page of Meg P.
As for a site in the centre of the Cursus:
That morning I had dowsed (on my own) a ‘circle’, slightly to the west of the present round barrow, whose SE arc just touched the NW edge of the present barrow. This might be worth investigating.

The most exciting find though, was a ‘natural’ flint object that I picked up on our way to the west end of the cursus, just lying in the grass.
It is phallic in shape, (even pecked with tiny holes around the tip), and has two small ‘bull-horn’ protrusions further down the stem. It is very easy to hold, and I could imagine an ancient local person having treasured it for its ‘fertility image’ appearance. Now we’ve heard the news about the new ‘henge’, it feels even more exciting, and makes me wonder if the artefact had any link to that site. Otherwise it could easily have been unearthed from one of those low barrows by some creature who’d carried it a little way then dropped it, finding it wasn’t, after all, a tasty bone!

When trying to research for info on the Fargo Henge after I got home, (and knowing, while we were there that day, that I’d read somewhere that this henge had bluestone connections), I googled without much luck, and went through everything you’d written on Eternal Idol, Dennis. It was only when I got to the very first article, that I hit gold. So all that time ago, you’d sown that ‘seed’ in my mind.
The article also had a map, showing where the henge in Fargo Woods (or Plantation) was situated. This does agree with our findings.
Now it makes me wonder, if my subconscious could have in any way ‘kicked in’ while dowsing. Whatever it was, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we had a fascinating afternoon.
Thanks to Alex for his patience and assitance while posing as an ‘entrance’ or ‘perimeter’ in photographic records that day!

Al wrote on July 23, 2010

There was some guy being interviewed about it, and he said (inbetween “we want to keep the location a secret for now”) that it was “in a field that we’ve always assumed was just an empty field, even in the neolithic”.

So, process of elimination: empty field (ie no visible archaeology), to the north-west of Stoney (Midwinter alignment) – I’d put it in the field behind the one in the Lidar maybe? (lets face it, that barrow your first and last image point to are visible to the naked eye/lidar, so hardly “under the ground, totally no sign of its presence)

Just thinking aloud. To quote Indie “we’re digging in the wrong place” :p

Al wrote on July 23, 2010

@Frank: the modern excavations have been painstakingly recorded, catalogued, measured, scanned etc. By the time the Riverside project is finished we will have a better understanding, not just of Stonehenge, but the entire landscape, and more importantly, about religion and funerary methods in the neolithic.

As for “leaving little by way of useful archaeology behind for the future?” – what future, exactly? ten years? 100? I know these things have been there for thousands of years, but they don’t have an infinite lifespan. Even Stonehenge might not be around in another 1000 years, what with acid rain and stuff eating away at it. We’re at that point in time now where the technology is just good enough to do a decent job on the place. (also, what’s to say the army wouldn’t go about digging it up for training like they have done in the past). We don’t know what the future will bring… Stonehenge might be under a themepark in 500 years.

With the greatest respect, I think that you’re dealing with not just a “maybe sometime in the past” past, but a “maybe sometime in the future” future.

Dennis wrote on July 23, 2010

Al, I think we’re at cross-purposes on one or two things, although I might be wrong, of course! If you look at the LiDAR images, here and elsewhere, they make a lot of things leap out from the landscape that are barely visible to the naked eye on the ground, or which in some cases are virtually invisible. I’m fairly sure the ‘barrows’ in the frame above fall fall into this category, but I’m prepared to be corrected on this.

Otherwise, unless I’ve gone mad, the northwest of Stonehenge also marks the setting of the Midsummer Sun, not a Midwinter alignment, and it’s something I’m inclined to think had more significance for our ancestors than sunrise on the same day. Any and all contributions on this and the ‘digging in the wrong place’ notion welcome!

Bob Jenkins wrote on July 23, 2010

I am grateful to be alive at a time when many wonderful discoveries have been made relating to Stonehenge. The Durrington Walls settlement, the associate neolithic road to the river, SH’s hedge, the pallisade, then the amazing find of Bluestonehenge, and now this !!!

I can barely keep up with the new information, theories, debates etc.
And, it appears all this will likely be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as more ground work is being done as I type. It takes my breath away (yes, I know I am a sue me!).

It was not too long ago that Stonehenge was ‘shrouded in mystery’….not to say the shroud has been lifted, but to carry this analogy one step further, the curtain is starting to rise.

Have I said how wonderful it is to be around during such interesting times ?

One last comment: here in Canada we tend to be bombarded by our neighbour’s news media (dare I, better not). This morning’s U.S. news story on the discovery stated emphatically that the new henge contained wooden posts. Now, from the dimensions of the pits, my first thought was how similar they are to the Aubrey holes (mentioned in another, far more eloquent post above). As there are no plans for excavation (perhaps later ??) we may not know what the pits held for some time… my money is on bluestones.

Well, better go buy another four inch binder to keep my notes, printed articles, and posts from this site all organized!


Al wrote on July 23, 2010

Hi Dennis

yeah, right about the alignment, typing before my brain caught up.

However, they have repeated the statement:

“The presumption was this was just an empty field — now we have got a major ceremonial monument, looking at Stonehenge.”

If it was those barrows, then they are visible on both the Lidar that came out last year (?) and Google Earth – so why would they presume it was empty when it’s obvious (even to me) that it has whacking great barrows in it! (and there are a line of barrows to the east in the same field, so it isn’t an empty field).

However, something else just struck me. in that article it states the new monument is both “aligned” with Stonehenge, and has entrances to the North-East and South-West. So.. is it in an empty field to the North-East or South-West (rather an North-West)? Anyone got a b&w plot of barrows and such? where are the empty fields?

Alex Down wrote on July 23, 2010

To all who’re still puzzled by the position of the new henge, I and Angie, at least, have already explained that images showing the new henge coincident with a visible barrow (either LiDAR or aerial photograph) are WRONG. (And that means the BBC annotated image is wrong.)

The new henge is effectively invisible on the ground, which means it doesn’t include any existing significant barrows. Anyone can use the same information that I did to locate it on Google Earth or an OS map. First, continue a line from Coneybury henge through Stonehenge (you’ll have to do your own research to locate Coneybury exactly, but it’s about 1300m roughly to the southeast of Stonehenge (according to the Independent, which describes it as the mirror image of the new henge, relative to Stonehenge). Continue that line in the same sort of direction to the northwest of Stonehenge. Use the measuring tool to extend the line for 900m (according to Prof. Gaffney’s team), and you’lll find that you’re located roughly halfway between the west end of the line of Cursus barrows (that Al mentioned) and the misleading barrow 51 (RCHM survey) which the BBC believes is the site of the henge, but you should ignore.

You’ll see that you’re in a clear area of field, quite close to the Cursus, no more than 100m away. The diameter of the new henge is 25m. This positioning makes it very interesting.

Any discussion of “alignments” means (I’m almost certain) the axial orientation of each henge, on a northeast/southwest line. This can be determined pretty precisely for Stonehenge, but only roughly (between two wide gaps in the ditch) for the new henge. So the two axes are approximately aligned parallel to each other.

I hope that makes it all clear.

Alex Down wrote on July 23, 2010

For completeness, I should have added that the two barrows indicated by the red arrow in the LiDAR image are barrows counted 50 and 51 in the 1979 RCHM survey. They are very clear on the LiDAR and even on the the OS 50K Landranger map. You can see them slightly less clearly, but there nevertheless, on Google Earth. As Angie said above, they’re very obvious on the ground. I believe the misapprehension has occurred because the LiDAR annotation has been drawn by using the incorrectly annotated Microsoft image (which I’d thought was the BBC’s but I may be doing them an injustice.)

The RCHM survey also indicates two possible ploughed-out candidates for the burial in the new henge, but I’m much less confident about identifying whether one or either is a possible candidate.

Dennis wrote on July 23, 2010

Alex, thanks very much for all this and thanks also for the updates. If you can send me any form of imagery indicating the position of this new feature/structure/barrow/henge/temple/”Hillside Henge”, then I’ll happily post it up for all to see.

Angie Lake wrote on July 23, 2010

So, that means that one of those photos on Meg P’s site page (see link in my earlier comment) is Barrow 51. I’d taken several that day, so by your description, Alex, it is further up slope from 51. I’ll see if I can link in the nearest of my photos …
This is the west end of the chain of Cursus Barrows on the ridge:
This is further down, taken in shade with light on SH for contrast:
Another with the two barrows in it:
Looking up hill towards NW over the two barrows:
(The Cursus runs between the two ‘blocks’ of trees in distance. ie: between tall dark ones and futher lighter green ones to their right.)

I think what’s puzzling Al is that the site was described as an empty field, and this one’s clearly got barrows in it.

What was stated about ‘no significant ceremonial discovery for 50 years’ made me wonder too, why they hadn’t mentioned Bluestonehenge. However, when listening again to the evening News on TV that day, I realised that what the guy was actually referring to was ‘in the vicinity of SH’, or ‘in view of SH’. I’m sure that’s what he meant. It still seems odd that someone didn’t bring up the subject of Bluestonehenge, though.
(The banks of the Avon are lovely at that site. I’m very lucky and priviledged to have been shown it by Alex on 6th May, the second day we met up. We were allowed a short visit.)

Going back to the site of this henge… The first time I walked to the west end of the Cursus was only 17th Dec 2008, a little over 18 months ago, but on walking back to the corner of Fargo Plantation, and viewing SH from there, it seemed perfectly contained in its setting, sitting as if in the centre of a saucer.. almost ‘floating’. (A bit like the first photo I’d linked to in this thread..)

It’s all great stuff, and as Dennis said.. he predicted there was something important in the NW and this is (maybe the first of several!) proving him right. Thanks for providing such a great SH ‘talking place’ Dennis! (We missed you dreadfully while you were busy!)

Angie Lake wrote on July 23, 2010

(Dennis, sorry, I meant the *second photo* I linked in on this thread in the last [bracketed] sentence of the penultimate paragraph!)
.. and I put a ‘d’ in privileged! Aarrggghhh…

Dennis wrote on July 24, 2010

My apologies to one and all for not moderating the comments in my usual painstaking fashion, but I had to post them up as soon as they came in due to time constraints this end. Still, there’s nothing here that will ruin anyone’s reputation, methinks, so thank you all again and I’m pleased to see that this new discovery if proving to be of such great interest to one and all. I have a few more thoughts of my own that I’ll post up when I can do them justice.

Bob, I’m very pleased you’re so enthusiastic about all this, so please feel free to share any thoughts or ideas you may have. For my part, I think it’s impossible not to be fascinated by all this, while the last year or so has seen a deluge of Stonehenge-related discoveries. I haven’t forgotten that I promised to publish another piece on the aurochs, so I’ll do this as soon as I can.

Juris Ozols wrote on July 24, 2010

The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (RCHM) published an excellent report in 1979 entitled “Stonehenge and its Environs.” It presented lots of historical and other data, including three maps of the environs. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the report from the British Museum Bookstore in 1998 before it sadly folded.

The image here shows a section of the “New Henge” vicinity extracted from one of the maps. Obviously, there are a number of other known barrow locations around there in addition to barrows 50 and 51 that show up on LIDAR and Google Earth. I don’t know whether any of those other barrows might correlate better with the New Henge, and perhaps Alex could add some insight.

In addition, I’ve overlaid in red another piece of tantalizing data on this map. Some time ago, Alex and I were studying the Stonehenge LiDAR video in considerable detail, and we found various what I’ll call “Lidar Tracks” that could be discerned. These are faint linear traces that by and large can’t be correlated with any current fences, roads, etc. You might recall the posting about “KB-1″ that Dennis put up a while ago? That was one of our LiDAR tracks that actually still has some distinct physical presence now, but many of the other ones apparently don’t.

In any case, the image here shows a fragment one such track which we call CS-1. If you look carefully at the top of the LiDAR image in Dennis’s post, you can actually make it out. That track starts above the Cursus and comes down toward the Stonehenge barrow group before it disappears. Note that it points directly at barrows 113 and 115 from the RCHM data.

What is it and what does it mean? Open question, and very difficult to answer based on what we have. Alex and I debated at length about these things, but I don’t think we really have any solid conclusion. Our opinions tended to vary.

One other bit: There’s another quite long track, SH-1 we called it, not shown on the image here. Really quite intriguing. It starts out as a distinct trace at Rox Hill, goes directly through the Normanton barrows group (Bush Barrow is to its west) and points toward the Stonehenge barrows before disappearing. It’s tempting to try to connect it with CS-1 as some kind of pre-historic pathway wandering throughout the Stonehenge environs. But again, we really don’t have anything in the way of data on that.

JohnWitts wrote on July 24, 2010

The key alignment in this direction is the mid summer sunset – does this henge fall on this alignement ex Stonehenege? Of course the henge may not even be contemporary with Stonehenge (and possibly not with the megalithic phase) and dating evidence will be necessary before interpretation goes beyond mere speculation.

Dennis wrote on July 24, 2010

Al, thanks very much indeed for the link, the picture and the diagram. Absolutely fascinating and another concrete case of a picture being worth a thousand words.

Al wrote on July 24, 2010

Yeah, interesting. Doesn’t make much sense though – you’d expect the new henge to fall at the cross-point of the triangle (i.e. at the far end of the Cursus). but it falls inside. Something to think about anyway (I’m not a fan of “leylines” and such, so any alignments I tend to look for are obvious and with obvious purpose)

Dennis wrote on July 24, 2010

Yes, it is indeed interesting, Al. It might not make much sense to you or me, but I suspect it was crystal clear to our ancestors, so perhaps we can’t see the wood for the trees? I’ve just had a very interesting update on this new feature and as I write, MOJO Productions are working on some graphics, so as soon as it all comes in and as soon as I’ve got time, I’ll publish it as a new post, later tonight, hopefully.

JohnWitts wrote on July 24, 2010

As I see it there had to be some sort of order otherwise how else would people know when they were supposed to meet up at the likes of Durrington? The alternative is just turn up and hope that others were of a like mind.

My theory is thus that leys were merely an alignment using a sighter, the horizon and sun to signify when the key religious gathering days were due. Although there may well have been something to using essentially straight lines through woods – how else do you navigate them?

I really do not want to speculate but then I will … first thought was that perhaps different henges, as long barrows may have done before them, belonged to different communities (clans or tribes)? After a while, Stonehenge became the ONE of signifcance. For this to work, it would mean that the other henges (leaving aside the likes of Durrington and Marden, which seem connected with the megalith phase at Stonehenge) will be dated before or at least contemporary with Stonehenge – but not later.

Alex Down wrote on July 25, 2010

John makes an interesting point about the midsummer sunset, above. I’m not sure how significant that event is (compared with the sunrise, or midwinter), but the alignment proved worth investigating.

First, I checked the alignment of the Avenue, supposed to define midsummer sunrise, using the measurement tool in GE. The answer is extremely close to 50 degrees, and this 2500BC solstice azimuth is confirmed by some Internet sources. So I’ve assumed that the corresponding sunset figure will be the mirror direction, 310 degrees, close enough. (Can anyone confirm that, or does one of those odd astronomical asymmetries come into play here?)

OK, so next I measured 900m on a bearing of 310 degrees from the centre of Stonehenge. And it fell bang in the middle of the area that I’d identified as most likely. As a curiosity, it’s exactly on an east-west line of 90 degrees that is the line of best fit through the line of Cursus barrows. Coincidence? Probably, but while the equinoctial east-west line was probably less interesting to BA barrow builders there may well have been some residual significance to the alignment from the Neolithic period. And orthogonal lines may have been of interest to them – the Normanton Down cemetery to the south has two linear arms that are very close to an L-shape with a right angle between them. And a line drawn due south from New Henge goes through the westernmost barrow of the Normanton group.

But I’d better stop right there – that way, madness lies!

However, it does appear that the direction of the midsummer sunset from Stonehenge may have been acknowledged by the New Henge. I wonder if it would have had some sort of Avenue from the ditch/bank at Stonehenge? Various writers have pointed out that there it’s possible to construct a midsummer sunset alignment (not totally convincingly) but there is a gap in the bank on the 310 degree azimuth … which just mayhave marked a processional way/avenue.

Al wrote on July 25, 2010

Depends on how old it turns out to be, really. It may have been that there were a network of circles, and some time later they decided to consolidate them into one big henge in the middle. Maybe the family-group tribes joined together under one “king” or somesuch? Not saying that every family had their own henge by any means, but it could be that they just remodelled the landscape because the old one wasn’t working very well.

Of course, could be the reverse – there was one big Stonehenge, and then the tribe split up and went off and made their own henges aroundabouts.

Interestingly though, there are earlier records of a “henge” in that corner of the field, or at least “stone fragments indicating…” . And that corner, just under the Cursus, is quite busy, indicating that maybe that spot was the center of the landscape in earlier times.

JohnWitts wrote on July 25, 2010

Druids counted by night (hence the term fortnight) so sunset is the start not the end of a day. Of course we know there is no link!

Aynslie wrote on July 25, 2010

Again I second John! (You’re on a roll, John. Do you want to go for three?)

JohnWitts wrote on July 26, 2010

Watching a National Geographic documentary on Doggerland yesterday and it concluded with evidence of Neolithic axes left at old Mesolithic sites which had been long drowned under the North Sea. This was considered to be an act of remembrance rather than down to chance or accidental loss. I wondered how such behaviour may square with the Mesolithic post holes at Stonehenge. Was there indeed a memory or indeed continuity of use over 4000 years?

Aynslie wrote on July 26, 2010

There you go, John–number three! I mentioned those same axes a while back in a very similar context, regarding the longevity of memory and how the past can inform the future (or in our case the exceedingly distant past informing the very distant past).

Mark Stringer wrote on August 3, 2010

The ‘new Henge’ near Stonehenge is fascinating indeed, a straight line from the new henge to Coneybury Henge passes through the space between the first two carpark post 2400ft away. If the carpark posts are 10,000 years old then how old is the new henge? The distances from the various monuments around Stonehenge to one another are very interesting as is the distance from Avebury to Stonehenge at 17.28 miles or 1/4 of the mean degree on Earth.

Mark Stringer wrote on August 3, 2010

Hillside henge is fascinating indeed, a line from this new henge to Coneybury Henge passes straight through the space between the first two carpark posts 2400ft away. The distances from Hillside Henge to other major monuments around Stonehenge are also very interesting, an amateur metrologist’s dream.

Dennis wrote on August 3, 2010

If I understand the reports correctly, then Hillside Henge was built over 4,300 years ago. I’ll have to ask MOJO Productions if they can come up with a diagram showing a line from Hillside Henge to Coneybury, as it would indeed be fascinating to see precisely where a straight line goes between the two, as far as Stonehenge and the Mesolithic pits are concerned.

I’ve written about the northwest of Stonehenge at great length on this site, under the TANITH category to the right. There’s obviously something odd going on, and as I’ve said, my best guess is that the alignments (including Hillside Henge) to the northwest of the ruins are down to memory as opposed to direct observation. See the details of Bluestonehenge for more on this, because this monument was abandoned in Neolithic times, then re-used as late as the Iron Age.

Care to comment?