Lunar and Solar Anonymity in Three Stages
By Duane Dunkerson
Some of the strong remorseless stones of Stonehenge have
been in Salisbury Plain in Wessex in the south of
England for forty centuries. Stonehenge, with or without
stones, has been in existence for thirty-five centuries.
Stonehenge has been written about for nine centuries.
As Horace Walpole observed in 1786 - "It is remarkable
that whoever has treated of this monument has bestowed
on it whatever class of antiquity he was particularly
fond of." In the twelfth century it was asserted that
Merlin the magician had had a hand in moving the stones
to Salisbury Plain. In the seventeenth century, I. Jones
argued that Stonehenge was a Roman temple. In the
eighteenth century John Aubrey and William Stukeleyboth
thought the Romans were involved with Stonehenge but
only because British Druids had a temple at Stonehenge
as a focus for resistance to Roman conquest.
In the fourth century BC, Hecateus wrote of The
Hyperboreans living in an island opposite to the Celts
of Gaul. The Hyperboreans made homage to the Sun god,
Apollo. They did so in a sacred place having a circular
temple. Others in centuries much later than the fourth
century BC have Stonehenge as an agreeable structure for
the Magi or the Ghaurs. If not for them, then perhaps it
is a colossal Asiatic temple, a temple of Boodh? Perhaps
it was more scientific and served as a model for the
motions in the heavens? It could have been constructed
according to Pythagorean geometry or rather it was a
temple dedicated to Diana, goddess of the Moon. In a not
so cultural sense, it may have been an effort in
construction directed by a great Indo-European cow
Cow chiefs are not necessarily invoked to account for
megalithic (built with large stones) monuments other
than Stonehenge. Such monuments are to be found as
cromlechs (circles of stone usually enclosing dolmens),
dolmens (monuments of two or more upright stones
supporting a horizontal stone slab), and menhirs (single
standing stones) from India to Ireland and from North
Africa to Scandinavia. Some other Stonehenge-like groups
do exist such as in Arabia. The wisdom of the ancient
East came to Stonehenge but no particulars about
Stonehenge are thus revealed.
Nor is an extra-regional wisdom apparent in megalithic
monuments and structures that are similar in some
aspects to Stonehenge. In Britain the Avebury monument
has a bank, ditch, and great stone circle on a scale
grander than at Stonehenge. Very close to Stonehenge,
but only recognized in 1923 from an aircraft sighting,
is Woodhenge. It has post holes in settings on an axis
pointing at the midsummer solstice. At the center of
Woodhenge is a grave. In the grave is the skeleton of a
sacrificial child. Around the grave are indications of
the frame of a large wooden building. Another wooden
henge, not so close to Stonehenge, has its post holes
arranged in a horseshoe as Stonehenge also has some of
its parts arranged in horseshoes. Yet another henge
called the Sanctuary has been destroyed but it was
known, before destruction, from Stukeley. It was a
wooden circle, that is, its components were of wood.
Then it became a stone circle. However, it did not have
lintels atop standing stones as at Stonehenge. These
monuments are but a few of many intentional circles and
stones set up in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and
In the area near and for miles around Stonehenge are
barrows. These are burial sites, usually heaps of earth.
In the area of Stonehenge are about 450 barrows. At
first, the barrows were long and date from 4,000 BC. The
long barrows were for burial of any community or tribal
member. Later came round barrows and only, presumably,
more important personages were interred in these sites.
Skeletons were found in the barrows but also cremated
remains are known to be there. Stonehenge is located in
a vast cemetary.
Some of those whose remains are in the barrows may have
contributed to the building of Stonehenge. Over
centuries and in three major stages structures at
Stonehenge were created. Only in the last stage were
there stone pillars and lintels. Some stones were set up
in earlier stages of Stonehenge but earlier larger
structures at Stonehenge had been made of wood. The
builders of the last stage of Stonehenge were different
from earlier builders of the other stages who had used
At Stonehenge in its last stage, the builders were
putting woodbuilding procedures into practice with
stone. No mortar was used. The lintels were held in
position above the uprights with tenon and mortice. The
lintels were put up with the intention that they were to
connect with one another and form a continuous circle.
The lintels were fitted together with tongue and groove.
Mortice and tenon with the tongue and groove are
techniques taken from carpentry. Only Stonehenge had the
lintels in the circle of stones.
Some of the stones were massive. Nevertheless, they
could have been brought to the site and set up by rope,
wood logs and piles, and men of a few hundred at most.
With these elements of the plan at hand then a forceful
motive could supply the animation. Surely it was a grand
sight once it got as far as they could go. Apparently
they ran out material or men or will power.
The wind swept the Plain and erosion began. Tourists
centuries later added to the eroding. Other than
tourists may have altered arrangements or broke stones
and carted them away. The tourists of centuries ago
could want a piece of Stonehenge to call their own. The
guardian of more recent times for Stonehenge might
approach them to sell, from his pocket, a few stone
chips. But most tourists realized that these chips were
probably taken from plowed fields nearby. The
"conscientious" (seeking the genuine article) tourist
would bring a hammer and slam away at the sarsen stones.
But they would find, as did the builders of Stonehenge,
that modification of the sarsens was best accomplished
with other sarsen and such was no longer readily
available in the tourist's time. A hammer could be
easily enough brought on site and employed with only
remonstrances from the guardian or bystanders. Power
tools would have quickly destroyed Stonehenge but their
availability came late enough, and the urge to bring
them on site lost out to Stonehenge being removed from
private hands and placed in national trust.
The guardians, mostly self-appointed, were to be
replaced. In 1882, a version of Sir Lubbock's Ancient
Monuments Bill was enacted. This had no effect on the
private ownership of Stonehenge. In Victorian times, a
secure fence had been proposed to be in place around
Stonehenge. It was to be of Crump's Improved Angle-Iron
Frame Vertical Bar and Hurdle No. 31 with excellent
Finally, in 1898, Stonehenge was offered for sale. A
fortune was asked for the release of Stonehenge. The
great threat was seen to come from the United States. An
American millionaire, never named, was the ever-present
bogeyman who desired to remove Stonehenge to America.
Then too those uncouth Americans might bring the circus
to Stonehenge. But no, Stonehenge stayed put and British
soldiers would later travel by at a distance of five
yards and artillery exercises would shake the stones. On
December, 31, 1900, a gale force wind blew over a sarsen
and its lintel fell and broke. Then a fence went up and
admission was charged. Should Stonehenge be restored,
they asked. Put it all in a bed of concrete? Perhaps all
that could be done was to allow for pious decay.
By the early 1930's there could be 15,000 visitors per
month. In 1935 a parking lot was built. In 1958 the
stones that had fallen in 1900 and 1797 were put back
up, in concrete. In addition, in 1963 a stone fell and
it was set back up. In 1971 there were 550,000 visitors.
In 1991 there were 615,000. In the 60's came mobs. They
knocked down fences and, at times, they would engulf the
The present day Druids were self-appointed in 1781,
modeled on freemasons. Their nonsense included sickles,
blindfolds, and mysteries in their Santa Claus beards.
They first visited Stonehenge on, August 24, 1905,
coming in by train. Stukeley and Aubrey had dished up
and fed the fantasy of certain ancient Druids. Their
Druids had been temple keepers. They installed
Indo-European chieftains at Stonehenge. The Romans did
not tolerate the Druids who usually performed their
rites in wooded groves. The Romans tried to cut down the
groves. The Romans may have not liked the alleged human
sacrifices the Druids committed.
With or without Druidic influence Stonehenge was
located amidst burial sites of that area. The site for
the first Stonehenge had been cleared though it soon
enough became overgrown. The landscape thereabouts was
turning into grassland as trees were being felled
without replacement. The first Stonehenge became part of
a large group of ceremonial structures already a few
hundred years old. A causeway camp was a territorial
focus. Many, if not most, ceremonial sites had camps
with causeways to demarcate territory. Before the first
Stonehenge, a cursus was built. The greater Crusus was a
long and straight earthwork 100 yards wide and 3000
yards long. There was a bank and a ditch on either side.
The Greater Cursus is 800 yards north of Stonehenge.
There is a smaller cursus to the northwest of
Stonehenge. Such cursuses are not unique to the
Stonehenge area. At least twenty more are to be found in
Britain. One cursus is six and one quarter miles in
length. It is the Dorset Cursus at Cranborne Chase.
The first Stonehenge came about around 3100 to 2300 BC.
It was one of five henges in the area. A ditch was dug
into chalk with deer antler picks. The removed chalk was
placed six feet high in gleaming white piles. A large
entrance was made facing the northeast. Within the bank
were 56 holes, now called Aubrey holes, which were dug
and filled in almost as soon as they were dug. None of
the Aubrey holes contained stones or posts. An on-site
investigator named Hawley checked the 56 Aubrey holes
and found them to be sixteen feet apart in a circle. The
holes were with straight sides and flat bottoms. Almost
all of the holes contained cremations. The holes were
six feet in width and four feet deep.
Then around 2150 to 2000 BC the second major
developments at Stonehenge were undertaken. The second
Stonehenge had its axis shifted more toward the east.
The new orientation was to the rising Sun at midsummer
solstice. The accuracy of this newer orientation was to
a high degree of precision. Near the center were placed
bluestones (spotted dolerite) that had been brought to
Stonehenge from elsewhere. The blue stones were in a
double circle, called the Q and the R, but the circle
was not finished. Around 2,000 BC, these bluestones were
removed and their holes were filled in.
Then around 2100 to 2000 BC the third Stonehenge was
begun on the site. This is the standing stones with
lintels that are now known as the Stonehenge. Stonehenge
number three has been divided into three phases of
construction. In phase one, ten stones of sarsen (a
variety of sandstone) were carefully trimmed and placed
in a horseshoe. The smoother side was turned inward. The
uprights were about seven feet wide and spaced 3.5 feet
apart. They are oriented to the northeast with the bulk
of the stones smallest in the northeast and increasing
in bulk as one goes to the southwest. Thirty smaller but
still immense stones were place upright in an outer
circle with thirty lintels to form a continuous level
ring sixteen feet high. The uprights were not all of the
same length so in order to have them all at the same
height above ground, holes of different depths were dug.
One stone of the outer circle was one half as high as
the rest of the stones in the circle. It had not been as
lengthy to begin with.
In the second phase of Stonehenge three, in about 2000
to 1550 BC, twenty bluestones were dressed and placed
with the sarsen horseshoe in an oval. At 1550 BC the
holes designated as the Y and Z groups were dug outside
the sarsens but nothing was set in them.
Lastly, in phase three (1500 to 1100 BC) of stage three
of Stonehenge the bluestones were reset into a horseshoe
in the sarsens horseshoe with an increase in size to the
southwest, and a circle of bluestones was put within the
In sum, then, as one walks toward the center, there is
a sarsen circle with the continuous lintels, then a
bluestone circle in encountered. After that, there is a
sarsen horseshoe with some lintels, then more
bluestones, and then the so-called Altar Stone that now
is fallen but once probably stood upright. The Alter
Stone is of a different sandstone than the sarsens.
The uprights of the outer circle taper at the top in a
convex manner like at the top of the columns of
classical Greece. In the case of the Greeks, the slight
curve placed there is called entasis. The uprights are
not of equal width since they were not found to be so
and they could not be reworked to be so; but the
uprights are so that their centers are of equal distance
apart. The lintels are also curved on the outside and
the inside faces so they make for a smooth circle. The
lintels are within an inch of being a perfect circle and
they are nearly precisely level. A great deal of the
sarsen material had to be trimmed from the initial
stones. Very laborious work was done with stone tools.
Sarsen tools were needed to work the sarsen stones.
The full range of work at Stonehenge concerns 1200
years or about 55 generations. For us, Stonehenge spans
forty centuries. Certainly it is a definitive component
of what we mean when we apply the word "monumental" to
any and all sites, structures, or societies. The phases
of Stonehenge three reach across 1600 years. This time
span is more than what separates us from the Romans.
From across this great gulf in time, Gerald Hawkins,
astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, proposed in 1965 that
Stonehenge was set up and used as an observatory for the
prediction of solar and lunar eclipses. He found, by
using an IBM computer and "Oscar", a plotting machine,
that Stonehenge was used to find the midsummer Sun and
the rising and set points of the Moon in both summer and
winter. But these concerns, if any, by the builders of
Stonehenge, are centuries apart. That is, Stonehenge was
first set up for lunar concerns, then solar. Hawkins
also claimed that the Aubury holes were for lunar
counters, wooden posts, to be moved about in the holes
in order to secure prediction of lunar eclipses.
However, the Aubury holes were dug very early on in the
stages for Stonehenge construction. They belong to the
time when Stonehenge was mostly a circular enclosure,
that is, to the Stonehenge one stage. From Stonehenge,
as a lunar predictor, until and through Stonehenge two,
with a solar preoccupation, would entail a continuity of
astronomical concerns unparalleled in prehistoric,
ancient, or modern times. Such a concern is associated
with civilizations and there were no civilizations in
Britain to support such a science.
The solar character of the arrangements of stone at
Stonehenge are, for Hawkins , dependent on a stone
called the Heel Stone from Stonehenge one and the Alter
Stone from Stonehenge three, third phase. There has been
found to be some astronomical significance for how the
stones are arranged in the later versions of Stonehenge.
Nevertheless, to characterize such arrangements as
comparable to computer-generated predictions is going
Among these arrangements are the four Station Stones.
These stones are in mounds within Stonehenge. It is not
known to which of the three Stonehenges the Station
Stones belong. Hawkins thought the Station Stones were
set up to be alignments to mark the extremes of lunar
and solar settings. Another investigator, Newham,
believed the Station Stones were used to mark alignment
in the sky for equinoxes. Newham also found that the
sides of the rectangle that the Stations stones form
showed correlation with lunar positions on the horizon
such as Moon rise and set at what are termed the
standstills. Stonehenge is at a latitude so that lunar
and solar positions in the sky are at right angles. A
bit more north or south of Stonehenge and the Station
Stones would have had to be in a parallelogram to relate
lunar to solar events.
Newham stated that the twenty-nine and one half stones
of the sarsen ring were as 29.5 days of the lunar month.
The one half stone, he felt, was deliberately shorter
than the other 29. Others think the builders were
running out of the larger sarsens. Newham said the count
of the lunar years in its 18.61 year cycle toward its
most northerly rising was accomplished with movable
posts as sighting aids placed in the entrance to the
causeway. Furthermore, the Heel Stone, Newham noted, was
in the middle of the posts devoted to lunar positioning.
The Heel Stone is often seen in photos with a rising
midsummer Sun above it in Stonehenge three. In
Stonehenge one, the Heel Stone was the only stone and
probably had no significance for astronomical purposes.
If, as Newham asserts, the Heel Stone was put to lunar
purposes, it later was placed on an axis for the general
orientation of Stonehenge to the Sun.
The idea of the orientation, if not alignment of
Stonehenge to the Sun, was give much impetus by the 1977
discovery of a hole alongside the Heel Stone. It was
thought the pair could be a frame for the Sun at
midsummer sunrise. The Sun would have put light between
them and between two more stones and then two more until
ending on the Altar Stone at the center of Stonehenge.
This megalithic channel is evidence of considerable
skill and interest.
The makers of Stonehenge built latest in stone. Wood,
for supporting a science of astronomy, would have done
as well or better. But the stones of Stonehenge are
there for their stability, to deny the flux of weather
and the other altering factors of life. Stonehenge is
surrounded by graves. Beyond life there is the factor of
death. The graves were dug for permanence. Stonehenge
put the permanence in an aspect of an enduring
indication that death was accepted and duly noted.
The sarsens were once plentiful near Stonehenge. Six
hundred stones were taken from those nearby areas. They
were not all used for acceptance and notation. In other
areas like Cumbria there is Long Meg and her Daughters.
Solar shadow spirals are carved on Long Meg. The circle
at Castlerigg has a spiral. There are others elsewhere.
At Woodhenge the posts follow the Sun.
In 1953 there were suddenly seen daggers and axes
carved in some of Stonehenge's stones. The Sun and death
and the axe go together in primitive society throughout
Western Europe. The carvings on the Stonehenge stones
were of a style not found in Britain. They were like
those to be found in Brittany, in France. Stonehenge's
sarsens had associated circles, rectangle, horseshoe,
and a center stone. The circle is common in Britain.
Horseshoes abound in Brittany. Rectangles are also in
Brittany. The Bretons also had central stones. Burial
articles near Stonehenge are very much like similar
objects found in burials in Brittany. Carnac in Brittany
has 3,000 menhirs used as replacements for trees in
order to be sight lines for astronomical events. Away
from Brittany and like that light channel of Stonehenge
is Newgrange in Ireland. Newgrange is a chambered tomb
facing southeast. At the midwinter solstice the rising
Sun brings a narrow shaft of light into the tomb and
down a passage to shine on a decorated stone at the end
of the chamber.
So then this tomb at Newgrange was an astronomical
temple? Stonehenge has been termed such too. Others,
like Hawkins, go further. One of the others was J.
Smith, who in 1770, without the aid of instruments but
having White's Ephemeris, declared - "There can be no
doubt that Stonehenge was an observatory; the impartial
mathematics of probability and the celestial sphere are
on my side." Later it would be IBM and Oscar in one's
Neither the IBM nor Oscar could have sensed the sublime
terror that the singular Stonehenge can bring into one's
mind. Others have found Stonehenge to be a letdown after
all the build up to inflame dilated imaginations so that
they could complain they could build it better - only
let there be enough money. Royalty, having no need of
money, visited Stonehenge. They came as others did, for
a picnic. Sometimes hundreds came and their trash was
left again and again. Cricket was played on the grounds
until the 1920's. Buses, buggies, and wagons came and
newspapers, diapers, bones (chicken or pork), horse poop
or pee commemorated their visits.
But you could then and now find a calm time in a quiet
day in a cold season and relate well to what Sassoon
"What is Stonehenge? It is the roofless past;
Man's ruinous myth; his interred adoring
Of the unknown in sunrise cold and red;
His quest of stars that arch his doomed exploring.
And what is time but shadows that were cast
By these storm-sculptured stones while centuries fled?
The stones remain; their stillness can outlast
The skies of history hurrying overhead."