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
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
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 chief.
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,
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 wood.
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 spikes.
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
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 Druids.
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
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
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 sarsen circle.
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
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 too far.
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 court.
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
But you could then and now find a calm time in a quiet day in
a cold season and relate well to what Sassoon wrote -
"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."