Archaeologists keep coming up with controversial theories, even on things which they’ve been studying for generations. Take Stonehenge for instance. People from all over the world, who never set foot on England’s Salisbury plain, recognize the iconic stone circle. Professor Timothy Darvill is convinced he knows why the place was built. His theory makes a whole lot of sense but fellow academics aren’t convinced.
Stonehenge solar calculator
According to Timothy Darvill, a professor of archeology at UK’s Bournemouth University, “astronomical alignments were built into the design and orientation of Stonehenge.”
One thing that all the experts can agree on is that the stones “perfectly” frame the solstice sunrise at midsummer and sunset at midwinter, when the days are at the longest and shortest.
Until Professor Darvill came along, everyone assumed that the circle of standing stones at Stonehenge “was used for ceremonial purposes.”
Darvill’s controversial idea suggests that it was mainly used as a primitive calendar, marking the days, months, and seasons of the year.
One of the things that kept such a suggestion from being thrown against the wall sooner is the fact that the Druids, who built the place, didn’t use the same calendar we do.
Thinking outside the box, Darvill “concluded that Stonehenge served as a solar calendar and identified how it may have worked.”
Built in stages
The first thing to consider is that Stonehenge wasn’t built all at once as a single project. About 5,000 years ago, the smaller “bluestone” monoliths were placed. Those were made of rocks quarried in Wales. Much later, the larger “sarsen stones” were added and the material came from whole lot closer.
Exactly 30 of the newer sarsen stones were placed in a ring and capped by horizontal lintels in a circular formation. The structure originally had exactly 30 lintels as well. Darvill believes they represent three ten day weeks in a month because every tenth stone is “distinctive.”
It only adds up to 360 days and our year has 365.25 days in it. That’s what the “trilithons” are for, Darvill postulates. Inside the circle is a horseshoe formation of structures formed of two large vertical stones supporting a third stone set horizontally. There are 5 of them and could easily represent the missing five full days each year.
To account for that pesky fraction at the end, after the decimal point, we use leap year and add an extra day every four years. Darvill postulates the designers of Stonehenge used four corner post standing stones to account for the cyclic pattern of adding a day in every four years.
While it all makes sense, the professor’s detractors say it still doesn’t add up. Why they ask, “should two uprights of a trilithon equal one upright of the sarsen circle to represent 1 day?” They call his methodology “selective use of evidence to try to make the numbers fit.”
Mike Parker Pearson, a professor at University College London’s Institute of Archeology and the leader of The Stones of Stonehenge research also notes that “some of the stones have been left out because they evidently can’t be made to fit.” Either way, finding a solar calendar represented in the architecture “opens up a whole new way of seeing the monument as a place for the living.” As Professor Darvill calls it, “a place where the timing of ceremonies and festivals was connected to the very fabric of the universe and celestial movements in the heavens.“