The Ancient Astronomy of Stonehenge Decoded

The sum­mer sol­stice draws nigh, and many of us will spend it bemoan­ing the fact that we have yet again failed to make it to Stone­henge to view the sun ris­ing over its mas­sive Heel Stone.

Don’t beat your­self up too bad­ly.

Accord­ing to Vox’s Senior Edi­to­r­i­al Pro­duc­er Joss Fong, above, it’s like­ly that the win­ter sol­stice was actu­al­ly a far big­ger deal to the Neolith­ic builders who engi­neered the site.

While much of it is now in ruins, arche­ol­o­gists, his­to­ri­ans, astronomers, and oth­er experts have been able to recon­struct what the ancient mon­u­ment would have looked like in its hey­day. The place­ment of the mas­sive stones in care­ful­ly arranged con­cen­tric cir­cles sug­gest that its feats of astron­o­my were no acci­dent.

As Fong points out, the builders would not have known that the earth trav­els around the sun, nor that it tilts on its ver­ti­cal axis, thus effect­ing where the sun’s rays will strike through­out the year.

They would, how­ev­er, have had good cause to mon­i­tor any nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na as it relat­ed to their agri­cul­tur­al prac­tices.

The sum­mer sol­stice would have come at the height of their grow­ing sea­son, but if this year’s sun­rise cel­e­brants spin 180 degrees, they will be fac­ing in the same direc­tion as those ancient builders would have when they arrived to cel­e­brate the win­ter sol­stice with a sun­set feast.

These days, the win­ter sol­stice attracts a siz­able num­ber of tourists, along with neo-druids, neo-pagans, and Wic­cans.

Bun­dle up and join them, take a vir­tu­al tour, or at the very least, try your hand at assem­bling the nifty Aedes-Ars Stone­henge Mod­el Kit Fong glues togeth­er like a pro.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Artist Vis­its Stone­henge in 1573 and Paints a Charm­ing Water­col­or Paint­ing of the Ancient Ruins

Vis­it Pom­peii (also Stone­henge & Ver­sailles) with Google Street View

Lis­ten to the Old­est Song in the World: A Sumer­ian Hymn Writ­ten 3,400 Years Ago

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female char­ac­ters hits the lec­ture cir­cuit to set the record straight opens June 12 at The Tank in New York City. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Karl Reitmann says:

    The why and how of the stone cir­cles, and there are thou­sands, is a mys­tery. Astro­nom­i­cal expla­na­tions are com­plete­ly unsat­is­fac­to­ry though… Did they stand there dur­ing a sol­stice one night, made some sketch­es on the ground then next morn­ing start­ed to haul large mono­liths from dozens of miles to build a megas­truc­ture to the sketched design? There are just too many ques­tions of prac­ti­cal­i­ty. For any of the stone cir­cles or oth­er mega­lith­i­cal struc­tures, it’s easy to find a vague­ly match­ing astro­nom­i­cal expla­na­tion.…

  • Carlier says:


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