Apollo Cunomaglus at Stonehenge

by Dennis on July 1, 2011

Last week, on the Summer Solstice, I was sent a copy of some plans of the excavations at Stonehenge in 1953, as a result of the interest I’d expressed in Scroll Trench. The plans were confusing, but something that caught my eye was a sketch of the Heel Stone, where someone had written that they could see images on the stone. Knowing that my friend Juris Ozols has an impressive collection of photographs of Stonehenge, I wrote to him, asking if he would send me the best photograph of the Heel Stone that he possessed, which he duly did.

I put the photograph on my computer screen, then I asked my 14 year old daughter Tanith if she would come into my study to look at the photograph, because I know she’s interested in such things and because she virtually learned to walk at Stonehenge in the late 1990s.
I simply asked her if she could see any images in or on the stone, and I was surprised when she instantly pointed out what she described as a “cartoon horse”. I was mildly disappointed, but I duly peered at the screen in at attempt to discern this form, then Tanith revised her opinion and said she could see a huge dog, or hound.

She started to remind me of a particular story I’d once told her and her brother Jack about an ancient British god, then the form leapt out of the picture and made itself known to me, while the form was that of a huge hound.

In 2008, Professors Darvill and Wainwright excavated at Stonehenge, receiving huge media coverage on account of the fact that they were the first people to do so since the early 1960s. They stated their belief that Stonehenge had been a prehistoric Lourdes, or place of healing, something that I must admit I was highly doubtful about. Professor Darvill also stated his belief that Apollo, or a British equivalent of this god, was worshipped at Stonehenge in prehistory.

The piece above was published in January 2008, and it makes clear that Professor Darvill interprets a mention in an ancient Greek text by Hecateus of Abdera of “a notable temple”, where Apollo was worshipped, as a clear reference to Stonehenge. Curiously enough, there’s no mention of the study I published of this subject in July of the previous year, which gained worldwide attention, but I shall certainly be writing of The Lost City of Apollo and Vespasian’s Camp again in the near future. For now, though, all that matters is the belief of an eminent archaeologist who specialises in the study of Stonehenge that Apollo, or a British equivalent, was worshipped at Stonehenge in prehistory.

As Professor Darvill stated himself: “In the case of Stonehenge, I suggest that the presiding deity was a prehistoric equivalent of the Greek and Roman god of healing, Apollo.” In addition to this, we read elsewhere that “The evidence we have gathered has led us to a totally new interpretation of why Stonehenge was built and why people went there,” said Professor Darvill. “It opens up completely new avenues of investigation, which need to be followed up within the Stonehenge landscape.”

When looking for a British equivalent of Apollo, one avenue of investigation leads us immediately towards Apollo Cunomaglus, or Apollo the Great Hound Lord, which is why I was so astonished when my daughter pointed out the form of a huge dog or hound on the Heel Stone. As for following up this investigation within the Stonehenge landscape, it’s hard to think of a more prominent feature of this region that the world famous Heel Stone, while Nettleton Shrub, in north Wiltshire, is hardly at the ends of the Earth as far as Stonehenge itself is concerned.

So, what of this strange form in stone? Regular visitors to this site will be aware that people have seen vague likenesses of human faces or heads on some of the stones at Stonehenge, and they’re there if you look for them, although I doubt that they were deliberately carved into the stone. The hound’s head that Tanith pointed out, however, leapt out of the screen at me and I immediately thought of the god that professors Darvill and Wainwright had written about, while logic suggests that this god would have been Cunomaglus, or Apollo Cunomaglus, the Great Hound Lord.

Professors Darvill and Wainwright believe that Stonehenge was once a healing shrine, a theory I don’t subscribe to, but both Apollo and dogs have been connected with healing. To me, the figure looks exactly like a hound, with eyes, nostrils, jowls, teeth and a floppy ear, while it also has the neck and chest all in the right proportions. It’s also on the Heel Stone, the stone that everyone watches at sunrise on the Summer Solstice, and we know that while Apollo wasn’t originally a sun god, he came to be thought of as a solar deity in later times.

In his book Stonehenge, the archaeologist Julian Richards of Meet the Ancestors wrote that Stonehenge might have been decorated when it was in use. If I can see this hound’s head with such clarity now, then I think it’s perfectly possible that our ancestors saw it as well, while they might have painted it at certain times to enhance the outline and the features.

The only other representation of a living creature found at Stonehenge that I’m aware of was Stonehengehog, the chalk hedgehog or pig that was found there a few years ago, so I think it’s fantastic that Tanith’s pointed out this hound’s head, neck and body. The idea of it being Apollo Cunomaglus, or Apollo the Great Hound Lord, fits in perfectly with what professors Darvill and Wainwright have said about Apollo or a British equivalent being worshipped at Stonehenge. In addition to this, the fact that a 14 year old schoolgirl first noticed this likeness of Cunomaglus or “The Great Hound Lord” on the Heel Stone is a strange echo of 1953, when a schoolboy, who was the son of one of the archaeologists working at Stonehenge, discovered an axe carved into one of the uprights.

I’ve always been bemused by the lukewarm response or criticism from certain quarters concerning the appearance of simulacra at Stonehenge, partly because I think that if I can see something meaningful there during the course of my occasional visits or studies of photographs, then there’s every likelihood that my ancestors would have done so as well, while they visited the monument more frequently than I do and their imaginations were surely fired by the mortal dread that I’ve described elsewhere by quoting from Book VI of the Aeneid:

“Ye realms, yet unreveal’d to human sight,
Ye gods who rule the regions of the night,
Ye gliding ghosts, permit me to relate
The mystic wonders of your silent state!

Obscure they went thro’ dreary shades, that led
Along the waste dominions of the dead.
Thus wander travelers in woods by night,
By the moon’s doubtful and malignant light,
When Jove in dusky clouds involves the skies,
And the faint crescent shoots by fits before their eyes.”

Furthermore, if we accept, as most people do, that this monument was often used for the purposes of observation, then we’re presented with the scenario of people patiently waiting at a certain place to witness the predictable rise or set of a heavenly body. These events doubtless had a great significance for our ancestors, but I feel sure that they would have waited equally patiently for the mesmerising experience of watching the Sun, Moon and shadows transmogrify a cold rock into the living representation of one of their revered gods or goddesses; in this case, Cunomaglus or the Great Hound Lord.

As the late Ralph Whitlock, author of “In Search of Lost Gods” once wrote, “Thus, in our search for the old gods, we may well find traces of those who had commanded the worship of men in the days when Stonehenge was young…”

Postscript: While I welcome contributions, I’m certain that eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted something else of enormous interest and possible significance here, so I shall be publishing two following posts as soon as time allows.

In the meantime, my grateful thanks to Dan Johnson for the original plans, to Juris Ozols for the Heel Stone photograph and for the services of MOJO Productions, to my friend Rich Voysey for his technical assistance, to Tatiana Mikeheeva for the drawing of Cunomaglus on the Heel Stone and also to my wonderful daughter Tanith, for bringing my attention to this stunning likeness in the first place.

Written by proud Dad Dennis Price.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Niall O'Draighnean July 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Greetings Dennis, regarding a connection between dogs and healing, in Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe, the Romanies make a healing ointment for Bronchitis and other ailments from Dog Lard. I wonder how old this practice is and whether there is some archaic connection to Stonehenge. As for the likeness of the Dog, it is indeed striking and looks like the kind of dog used for hunting Stags or Boar + I would think it more likely to a connection to Hunting than healing, but who knows=

Dan J July 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

It’s amazing that I couldn’t see it before my nose was rubbed in it. I think I know where you’re going with this – the same direction I would go. Great piece. And ya doesn’t has to call me Johnson.

Dennis July 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Who knows indeed? But I think you’d both agree that this is truly fascinating. This is what I do know….

I know that I’ve looked at the Heel Stone a thousand times at least, both at Stonehenge itself and in photographs, but I never saw anything there. I now know that I was staring too hard into the mist and thereby tripping over the stone at my own feet.

I know that I can now see the likeness of a huge dog on the Heel Stone. I know that others can see it just as clearly as I can. I know also that a British god called the Great Hound Lord was worshipped in the region in prehistory.

Other than that, I know a great many other things that may or may not be relevant, all of which make me wonder. And while I can’t know for certain, I’m as sure as I can possibly be that all these ‘things’ are allowing me to have what I seek and value most, which is just a momentary glimpse of Stonehenge through the eyes of the men, women and children who worshipped and held ceremonies there, long before I was ever dreamt of.

JohnWitts July 2, 2011 at 5:31 am

Dogs were obviously important to hunter gatherers and so that would hold water. Given it is the Heel Stone then the case would be stronger if the outline is similar to the skeletons from the Neolithic?

Robin Melrose July 2, 2011 at 7:46 am

I don’t know if I’ve written about this before, but Castleden, in ‘Neolithic Britain’, says that several funnel-shaped pits were discovered at Letchworth, with the skeleton of a small dog at the bottom of each pit, together with Neolithic pottery and flint tools.

He also says that four pits, 256m SSE of Woodhenge, contained the remains of several animals, including dogs. They may be domestic refuse, but Castleden says they form part of alignment leading south from Durrington Walls. Neolithic dog skeletons have also been found in a chambered cairn on South Ronaldsay, and Bronze Age dog skeletons have been found at Flag Fen.

My belief, for what it’s worth, is that from the Neolithic, dogs in Britain were spirit-guides, which would fit in with the idea of Stonehenge being a domain of the dead. Apollo Cunomaglus was the sun who set in the evening and passed through the underworld. He’s also fairly unique – hound gods in Europe are very scarce on the ground.


Phil G July 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

Absolutely fascinating and a real gem of a daughter you have there. I’d insist she went everywhere with you now, dude, with instruction to keep her eyes peeled for what us old buggers cannot see.

Tony Hinchliffe July 3, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Just wondering what Professor Terence Meaden makes of this simulcra discovery/rediscovery your daughter has discerned for us all: he has, of course, not been afraid to write of (and reproduce in photographs) his own simulcra discoveries amongst the Avebury as well as the Stonehenge monoliths. He also approaches our prehistoric monuments from his own particular perspective, having been a Professor of Physics and being an expert on the formation of crop circles. As far as I know he is still a resident of Wiltshire and member of Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society, and maintains an active interest in the prehistoric landscape.

Tony Hinchliffe July 3, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Dennis, some fascinating stuff already exists on at least one of your previous posts, viz:- “Jesus In England………A Vast & Subtle Code” from 2009, and also, e.g. Robin Melrose’s remarks on your piece which he sent to you on 15 May 2009.

Tony Hinchliffe July 3, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Is there, or is there not, an older man’s face also to be discerned above and towards the right of the hound dog? Eyes, nose, mouth?

The Heel Stone may well have been already located close to its current position through entirely natural events, rather like the Cuckoo Stone and other free-standing menhirs like the Bulford Stone.

Dennis July 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I’m just composing a post about that as we speak, Tony!

JohnWitts July 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm


I was going to put forward a case for Gwyn ap Nudd, myself but this essay does it far better than I could.

But I would suggest Glastonbury is rather later on the scene and the the Vale of Neath has the strongest geographical links to Gwyn ap Nudd, putting Gwyn very much on the borders if not in the territory of the Silures.

Aynslie Hanna July 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Compare the dog in the stone, which I can no longer not see, to this dog. There’s an interesting similarity.

Dennis July 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I had a lengthy and very welcome email recently from a former colleague, who was good enough to point out the dogs of Lyndney and others. I note also on this link that there’s a suggestion in the name Nodens of an association with trapping or ensnaring, something that also came up on one of the links on Apollo Cunomaglus. I had meant to explore it further on my post about Cerberus, but….

Yes, I can no longer not see the hound, while it stands out on the black and white version by MOJO Productions, which in turn makes me think of the Heel Stone being discerned in moonlight in ancient times, which in turn makes me think of a goddess associated with the Moon, and so on and so forth.

JohnWitts July 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Archaeo News from Stone Pages today referenced this: http://www.theportugalnews.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=1120-22

Dennis July 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Very interesting – thank you very much for this, John.

Angie Lake August 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm
Aynslie Hanna August 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hmm. Where do you reckon he got that idea from? I can’t imagine.

Dennis August 7, 2011 at 3:24 am

It’s typical of your generosity of spirit to have posted the link to Eternal Idol, Angie, but if someone’s so truly desperate to be noticed that they’ll stoop to appropriating the discovery made by a 14 year old, then they’re just going to persist in their warped version of reality.

beaker February 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm

This is really interesting. A while ago I also started thinking about Nodens in relation to Stonehenge–not only is he a healer god associated with dogs (like Apollo Cunomaglus) he has several other relevant functions to the ritual landscape and its function. The root-word of his name is ‘catcher’ or ‘snarer’ which can relate literally to being a ‘fisherman’…but perhaps, also, as a ‘catcher of souls’ maybe a wild huntsman figure. This of course is similar to his son, Gwyn ap Nudd, who lived in Glastonbury Tor and escorted the spirits of the dead to the Otherworld. He is also known as Cloudmaker, and hence has relevance to the sky,and he has been mentioned in connection with the stars of the Milky Way. In Irish, he is of course Nuadhu Airgedlamh, Nuadhu of the Silver Hand…and this is where it gets kind of interesting to me. Amesbury’s parish church has an unusual dedication to the Breton Saint Melor…who was also said to have had a magical hand of silver. The church of course stands close to the recently discovered sacred spring at Vespasian’s camp, with its finds from the mesolithic through medieval–including a Roman curse and a unique bronze age rapier unlike any ever found so far.

JohnWitts February 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

As for St Melor this is a very interesting account (from the excellent Early British Kingdoms site) http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/melor.html

Dennis March 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the body of this post and also to the comments afterwards. And a very happy birthday today to my wonderful daughter Tanith, someone who I think has made one of the most intriguing discoveries ever at Stonehenge, and one which I intend to pursue further when time allows.

Harry Bourne March 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm

It may also be worth noting the supposed of “Apollo” with yet another of our great religious monuments but this time, the somewhat later Westminster Abbey.

When the workmen employed by Sir Christopher Wren to clear away the rubble of the now-burnt Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, they came across stag antlers in what appear to have been the foundations of Old St Paul’s and there have been several attempts at explanation. Wren himself was certain of one thing. It is some years that I looked at this but to my recollection, in a letter to Dean Atterbury of Westminster Abbey, Wren was at some pains to deny the existence of any Pre-Christian structures under St. Pauls’ and the Abbey. However, when appealing to Elizabeth I, the last Abbott of Westminster (appointed by the Catholic Mary) pointed up that there were legends about a temple to Diana the huntress goddess of the Romans under St. Paul’s cathedral plus another to Apollo under Westminster Abbey.

Sir Christopher has been proven to be wrong about the Picts not wanting to raid the Roman city of London. material from St. Paul’s Churchyard and possibly elsewhere in the City. What has been called the Barbario Conspiratio (= Barbarian Conspiracy) is usually seen as solely consisting of Saxons. However, Picts plus Scotti (= Irish raiders whose name later became what had been Pictia/Pictland became Scotia/Scotland). There is a late Irish text that refers to a Cath Lundunn (= Battle of London) that has been attributed to this period. The more so given that Ammianus Marcellinus tells us of the barbarians apparently being found as far south as what is now Kent.

So Sir Christopher seems to have been wrong on at least one count but how right or wrong he was about the Pre-Christian temples at St. Paul’s and the Abbey is more uncertain. However, the last Abbott of Westminster Abbey (appointed by the Catholic Mary) appealing to Elizabeth I to keep the Abbey as a Catholic establishment, pointed up the consistent tradition of such structures. This concerns a temple to Diana (the Huntress goddess of the Romans) under St Paul’s plus another to Apollo under the Abbey.

Here may belong the stag antlers already referred to but if there are such Pre-Christian temples, that of Diana seems more likely to have been a dedication to to a Pre-Roman deity along the lines of the Irish Flidais having deer as her “cattle”. Another Pre-Roman, therefore, Celtic deity may be marked at the Abbey along the lines of Belenos or some other sun-based god.

Neil March 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm

When I first saw the photo at the top of this link I thought the image being referred to covered the whole of the top of the stone, to make a dog’s head with a rather long snout. I’ve just finished reading Stonehenge A History in Photographs by Julian Richards, which is a fascinating look at the stones throughout photographic history, and there is a shot of, I think Atkinson and Piggott (although I could be wrong, I don’t have the book with me) posing for a photo, with the Heel Stone visible between two uprights of the sarsen ring. The photo isn’t sharp enough to see the hound as described in the post, but you can clearly see the larger image that takes in the whole top of the stone. Which is interesting, because that one would appear more visible from the centre of the site, whereas the more detailed ‘dog’ would appear more visible close up.

JohnWitts March 13, 2012 at 6:43 am

I am no good at finding patterns (I couldn’t see the patterns in the dots that used to be so popular)

Looking at this old picture of the Heel Stone I cannot see any significant shape – what am I missing?


(you may have to click through the google page)

DanJ March 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm

The 1928 photograph was taken from a point further west of the Heelstone and is rotated to give more of a profile view of the hound than shown above. It’s still there and easily visible if you can see it.

JohnWitts March 14, 2012 at 5:47 am

As I say I am useless at this. I have however seen an illustration of cave art where the natural feature of the rock was incorporated into the design and Neil Oliver (A History of Ancient Britain) states that an awe-inspiring depiction of a bison in Church Hole took advantage of a natural bulge in the rock.

Dennis May 31, 2013 at 2:55 am

Here’s a detailed BBC feature on Pareidolia, along with a link to a feature on EVP as well.

AHanna October 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Is this Turkey’s answer to what might be present at Stonehenge?

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