Students have lengthy speculated that the famed prehistoric monument Stonehenge might need served as some type of calendar that helped native folks predict eclipses, summer time and winter solstices, the equinox, and different related celestial occasions. Now, a British archaeologist has concluded that the positioning was designed as a photo voltaic calendar, and he describes his system in a current paper printed within the journal Antiquity.
“Discovering a photo voltaic calendar represented within the structure of Stonehenge opens up an entire new means of seeing the monument as a spot for the dwelling—a spot the place the timing of ceremonies and festivals was linked to the very material of the universe and celestial actions within the heavens,” Bournemouth College archaeologist Timothy Darvill stated.
Stonehenge is situated on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It consists of an outer circle of vertical sandstone slabs (sarsen stones), linked on high by horizontal lintel stones. There’s additionally an inside ring of smaller bluestones and, inside that ring, a number of free-standing trilithons (bigger sarsens joined by one lintel). Radiocarbon relationship signifies that the inside ring of bluestones was set in place between 2400 and 2200 BCE. However the standing association of sarsen stones wasn’t erected till round 500 years after the bluestones.
No up to date written information exist regarding the monument’s building, and students have contemplated its doubtless use and cultural significance for hundreds of years. Stonehenge’s type (and possibly its objective) modified a number of instances over the centuries, and archaeologists are nonetheless making an attempt to piece collectively the main points of its story and the tales of the individuals who constructed it and gathered in its circles.
Darvill, as an illustration, has championed the speculation that Stonehenge was a spot of therapeutic. Alternatively, College Faculty London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson speculates that the positioning was a part of a broader ritual panorama, serving as a funerary monument (a risk first proposed within the twelfth century by Geoffrey of Monmouth). Folks apparently buried their useless (after cremation) on the web site for a number of centuries. These burial websites are situated within the circle of pits now known as the Aubrey holes.
In 2019, Parker Pearson and a number of other colleagues reported the outcomes of their investigation into the quarry supply for the bluestones. They discovered that the 42 bluestones got here all the way in which from western Wales. Chemical evaluation has even matched a few of them to 2 specific quarries on the northern slopes of the Preseli Hills.
One quarry, an outcrop known as Carn Goedog, appears to have equipped many of the bluish-gray, white-speckled dolerite at Stonehenge. And one other outcrop within the valley under, Craig Rhos-y-felin, equipped many of the rhyolite. When one other group of archaeologists studied the chemical isotope ratios within the cremated stays of individuals as soon as buried beneath the bluestones, these researchers discovered that lots of these folks could have come from the identical a part of Wales between 3100 and 2400 BCE.
However the sarsen stones hail from a lot nearer to house. For the reason that 1500s, most Stonehenge students have assumed the sarsen stones got here from close by Marlborough Downs, an space of spherical, grassy hills 25 to 30km (17 miles) north of Stonehenge which has the biggest focus of sarsen within the UK. A 2020 examine by College of Brighton archaeologist David Nash and colleagues confirmed that.
As Kiona Smith reported for Ars on the time:
About 99 p.c of the common sarsen boulder is silica, however the different 1 p.c incorporates hint quantities of different parts, like aluminum, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and others. That additional materials is totally different in numerous sarsen sources, because it will depend on the minerals within the floor the place the rock fashioned. Nash and his colleagues used these hint parts as a geochemical fingerprint to match the Stonehenge sarsens to their more than likely supply.
Nash and his colleagues used moveable X-ray fluorescence to research the chemical make-up of all 52 sarsens at Stonehenge (the one survivors of the 80 sarsens that after stood on the web site). Every ingredient emits a barely totally different wavelength of sunshine when hit by X-rays, and by measuring these emissions, researchers can map the composition of an object with out damaging it.