It’s been long hypothesized that Stonehenge was a solar calendar of sorts. Specific alignments of the Sun with different stones is suggestive. Now, a new analysis of the famous stone ring reveals exactly how it may have functioned.
“The clear solstitial alignment of Stonehenge has prompted people to suggest that the site included some kind of calendar since the antiquarian William Stukeley,” said Professor Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University. “Now, discoveries brought the issue into sharper focus and indicate the site was a calendar based on a tropical solar year of 365.25 days.”
According to Darvill’s analysis the calendar was based on what seems to us to be an unusual ten day week. Special stones seem to mark the beginning of each of the twelve months denoted by the circle.
“The proposed calendar works in a very straightforward way. Each of the 30 stones in the sarsen circle represents a day within a month, itself divided into three weeks each of 10 days,” said Professor Darvill.
Although seven day weeks seem natural to most of us, there is a precedence for ten day weeks. They were used in other parts of the world near the time that Stonehenge was built.
“Such a solar calendar was developed in the eastern Mediterranean in the centuries after 3000 BC and was adopted in Egypt as the Civil Calendar around 2700 and was widely used at the start of the Old Kingdom about 2600 BC,” explained Professor Darvill.
Although there isn’t solid evidence of travel between Stonehenge and the Mediterranean or Egypt yet, there is some evidence of distant travel from that time. The “Amesbury Archer,” a bronze age man whose burial was found nearby seems to have been born in the Alps and moved to Britain as a teenager.
Professor Darvill hopes that future research, possibly including DNA analysis will make a link between far flung cultures more clear. Still, his work has already furthered our understanding of Stonehenge.
“Finding a solar calendar represented in the architecture of Stonehenge opens up a whole new way of seeing the monument as a place for the living,” said Darvill. “A place where the timing of ceremonies and festivals was connected to the very fabric of the universe and celestial movements in the heavens.”
The research is published in the journal Antiquity.
By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Staff Writer