archaeoastronomy.com visits Stonehenge near Amesbury on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England
 

Stonehenge

Certainly one of the world's most majestic reminders of the human past is this popular monument in south central England. Although the shaped pillars that remain standing are, individually, the largest to be found, the arrangement itself is relatively compact. The central structure was comprised of 5 pair of upright trilithons capped with horizontal lintels, each trio resembling the shape of the Greek character pi. Constructed about 16 centuries before Christ, these trilithon/lintel sets were placed in a horseshoe layout, the tallest set in the middle of the five. The vertical gap in that set is bisected by a line, the Summer Solstice sunrise alignment, through the heart of the circle and a remote marker known as the Heel Stone.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge's drawing card is the awe and wonder it inspires. Archaeoastronomers have long known about its heralding of the Summer Solstice. When sky conditions permit, the Sun can be seen rising through the vertical gap in the central trilithon/lintel set directly above the Heel Stone. Additionally, the 56 Aubrey Holes in a ring encircling the structure might have been an advanced, giant abacus for predicting lunar and solar eclipses. By advancing two different sets of markers daily and annually along the Aubrey Circle, Stonehenge's designers may have tracked solar/lunar recurrences with a known interval of approximately 18 and two-thirds years.

Stonehenge

British curators have been wrestling with exactly how much access visitors should be allowed to have to the interior of Stonehenge. At least in the winter of 1987, visitors were permitted to walk about amid the towering monoliths. But the general policy by the government caretaker, English Heritage, has been to keep tourists on a walkway that skirts the stone circle. The moist, sometimes saturated, sod is certainly happier for it. Nonetheless, in deference to those claiming religious kinship to Druid tradition, authorities typically allow the public to attend the Sacred Summmer Solstice Sunrises.

Stonehenge

If you have never visited Stonehenge, make plans to go at least once.

archaeoastronomy.com's favorite Stonehenge web pages

  1. Archaeoastronomy at Stonehenge - & other stuff by Chris Witcombe, Sweet Briar College
  2. Stonehenge Archaeoastronomy - web resource since 1994: info, pics, legends & theories
  3. Stonehenge by Night - nocturnal shots by Andy Burnham, Stone Circle Web Ringmaster
  4. Build Your Own Stonehenge - fun & games on how it works, for kids 8 & up
  5. Summer Solstice Sunrises - Stonehenge pilgrim Neil Leacy films 1999, 2000 & 2001
  6. Mysterious Places: Stonehenge - dramatic shots by professional photographer Cliff Wassmann
  7. English Heritage: Stonehenge - official information by the government caretaker agency
  8. Stonehenge-Avebury.net - visitor, historical & theoretical information on Stonehenge & Avebury
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