After patiently waiting for the mid-June sun to rise at Stonehenge, the builders and their visitors spent the rest of the day at Durrington Walls to watch the sun go down. So if you heard it any other way, then you heard wrong!
Picture 1. This image is based on a photograph taken by Mark Bettles in 2002 while standing in the middle of Stonehenge’s solstice doorway between pillars 1 and 30. It shows how the sun, on solstice morning, has surpassed Stonehenge's axis by around half a degree. It was around one degree when Stonehenge was built.
The cardinal points of the compass, north, south, east and west were no mystery to the Stonehenger's who pinned them down with great precision. These were a people who travelled the length and breadth of the land and were troubled by the differing alignments between the sun and moon depending upon where they lived. So they did something about it.
After pinning down the cardinal points, the next thing they did was to divide the horizon into 36 lots of 10-degrees. And that's why they gave Stonehenge an exact 50-degree axis. it's also why Stonehenge is not, technically speaking, aligned on any of the solstices.
Stonehenge's 50-degree axis was meant to capture sunlight with sun fully risen and at its most powerful. Stonehenge, an internal device measuring 36 megalithic yards diameter, was a 'Hall of mirrors' designed to capture and amplify light. It is also why Stonehenge II, is where it is.
Picture 1 demonstrates how the moon regularly exceeds the sun by travelling at least nine degrees further north. The most northerly position of the moon is called the Major Standstill. The sun goes nowhere where the moon hasn’t already been.
2. Arminghall Henge 3,150 BC, less than two miles southeast of Norwich city, was discovered by Flight lieutenant Insall when flying over it in 1928. The monument was excavated by Clark in 1935, but only partially.
The inner ditch of the henge is plain to see in the above picture by the ring of nettles that grow on it. What a pity, though, that a hedge blocks the view south to where the sun and moon set in their wintertime's.
3. Professionals have made several attempts to establish an axis of symmetry based on Arminghall's eight timber posts, yet despite the fact that there is no axis of symmetry to be found, got together and agreed on an azimuth of 223-degrees. Their postulated axis is five-degrees south of the southernmost sun and is further still from the 18.61-year southernmost setting of the moon.
Here we will propose an alternative solution.
A careful study of the landform south of, and beyond Chapel Hill, proves that three distant peaks once appeared each side of this hill’s northern promontory seen above. These peaks once cut a pair of notches in the Neolithic horizon through which the southernmost sun and moon could come to ground when viewed from the centre of the henge. A third notch forms a 40-degree west of south alignment (220 azimuth) with the henge.
This monument raises the likelihood that a German tribe, possibly the Michaelsburger’s, and the inventors of long-necked beakers, entered the country via Yarmouth and the river Yare. The Michaelsburger's were a tribe who went missing when the Rhine changed its course and left their mountain retreat exposed.
I would have to call the Arminghall Henge - the Woodhenge of Norwich. However, one does wonder what the original builders called it, especially since the archaeological term ‘henge’ converts to Womb – believe it!
The Arminghall Henge (we still have to call it that) is of course famous for its eight massive posts in the shape of a horseshoe placed in the central arena. Standing some 3m high out of the ground, the one-megalithic-yard-diameter posts needed long tapering ramps to help in their erection. These eight posts were probably topped with lintels similar to Stonehenge.
Much recent work has been done to figure out what this arrangement of posts actually points at, especially since the winter solstice sun could once be seen to slide down the side of Chapel Hill as if to take a drink from the river Yare.
Timber posts apart - the central area was found to be clean of debris with no trace of a grave. Not so the ditch which contained copious amounts of charcoal, broken pottery and flint.
4. Arminghall Henge post positions shown together with a pair of upright’s (coloured brown) to demonstrate how those alignments were made - and it’s every bit as accurate as the sights of a rifle.
At ground level, alignments between pairs of posts is tangential to their diameters, but due to the natural taper of tree trunks, a narrow gap appears between them which increases further up. Stonehenge, with its mortice and tenon and dovetail joints, which were obviously based on woodwork, took this idea on board by tapering its sarsen-stone pillars as well.
Some describe the Stonehenge tapering as entasis, named after the tapering stone columns of Greece that make pillars look taller than they really are, but the idea of tapering Stonehenge’s sarsens, which reduced top weight and helped in their erection, actually originated in Britain.
Since Arminghall's posts divide the points of the compass into 10-degree lots, it makes sense to suppose that the henge follows suite by aiming an exact 40 degrees clockwise from south, as well.
5. Chapel Hill promontory. This picture of Chapel Hill was taken nearer to the hill than from the henge and is unfortunately off a little way to one side. Nevertheless, it does tell us all we need to know.
A deep cutting passes right through the middle of Chapel Hill to carry a train line, and as it is approached from the west, a raised embankment has been built to match it. This embankment, seen on the right and below a distant roof-top, which can be seen through a gap in the trees, prevents the sun from reaching ground level these days. (Have they no respect?)
Of greater importance is a distant landmass that appears to the left of, and just below the peak of the hill that the 40-degree alignment of the monument points at. This landmass appears beyond the row of telegraph poles, and again can be seen through a gap in the treeline.
It is hard to make out in this photograph, but the busy A47 passes over the flank of Chapel Hill on the left of the picture and is where we can once more see a distant landmass. This is where the southernmost setting of the moon - one of her four major standstills - will come to ground in 2024.
Let's return to Stonehenge.
6. Breaking the rule book (well, nothing is that simple!). The front face of the Heel Stone, seen in the left foreground, points about 11-degrees more northerly than Stonehenge's two axis - yes it does have two axes - and therefore at the Major Standstill of the moon. The proof, which no one seems to have noticed, can be gleaned from John Wood’s 1740 survey of Stonehenge.
The last time the moon visited her northernmost position was way back in 2005/2006. The next Major Standstill will therefore take place around the middle of 2024. The good news is that, when the time comes, she will stick around for a year or more and, weather permitting, should put in a showing or two.
Hopefully, photographers will be allowed to enter Stonehenge during the many unsociable hours needed to get those pictures of the northernmost moon. But I doubt it. if not, photographers should get themselves off to some other monument instead - there are plenty more good targets mentioned in these pages.
In a search to find the answer to Stonehenge we should be looking for ways in which Stonehenge brought the sun and moon, and the stars together. That goes for other monuments, too.
7. Stonehenge’s Heel Stone.
Note how the Heel Stone axis - that is to say, the axis normal to its front face - crosses Stonehenge's axes. What better way could there be of bringing the sun and moon together? We find the same principle in operation at Durrington Walls where the incoming solstice crosses the axes of some eggs that make up the timber-built Southern Circle.
8. Before English Heritage got around to placing its vastly over-exaggerated and false information boards alongside Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, visitors to the more obvious Woodhenge site would often ask, “Where is the massive henge known as Durrington Walls?” Both monuments are shown in the above picture.
With modern concrete posts representing what were once massive tree trunks several feet tall, Woodhenge can be seen entering the picture from the right, whereas the snow-covered horizon marks Durrington Walls’ far bank. More of Durrington Walls' bank can be seen on the left but it’s not snow-covered. Durrington Walls' 4-degree downhill slope is obvious in this photo.
The snow was left behind by the ‘Beast-from-the-East’ - a cold snap that came across from Siberia in 2018.
Durrington Walls’ near bank, or what is left of it, thanks to many years under the plough, is just beyond the line of parked cars. This too is marked with snow. Note the red vehicle on the extreme right of this picture, because the next photo was taken from alongside it.
Beyond the trees to the right of the picture can be seen another section of Durrington Walls' bank. This too, is highlighted with snow. Cutting through those trees is the Countess Road, built in 1965. This new highway is elevated several feet above the pan-shaped valley, or combe, which early folk had cordoned off to build Britain’s largest henge. Note the blue farm vehicle parked beneath the embankment of the new road, because that vehicle very nearly marks the centre of the timber monument known as the “Southern Circle.”
Unfortunately, two-thirds of the Southern Circle was buried beneath the embankment and became lost to us when the new road was built.
9. The old road, little more than a track, is seen passing over Durrington’s denuded bank before taking a dip through the centre of the valley.
Much of Durrington Walls has been completely flattened due to ploughing. This was fortunate in some ways because loose chalk and hill-wash covered the monuments lower down and protected them - especially so the Southern Circle of timber. Prehistoric remains at the top of the combe, who lost their cover, were not so lucky.
Imagine for a moment what the above landscape would have looked like when Durrington Walls' was new. Built from gleaming white chalk taken from a 5-metre deep internal ditch, produced a bank so high to have blanked out most of the sky in the above picture.
Now note the narrow footpath in the right foreground, because a little further along it is from where the next photograph was taken.
10. The river Avon, to which the Southern Circle was connected via an avenue of hard-packed chalk with flints, can be seen behind the van and through the trees. This view of the Avenue (superimposed onto the photograph) almost gives one the idea that perhaps the Southern Circle was meant to slide down and into the river.
The Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2003 found five houses alongside this avenue, and those houses had been covered over and buried beneath Durrington Walls' bank. These houses were small square affairs measuring 6 by 6 megalithic yards. Their positions are marked in the picture with small splodges of snow.
Hoping to solve the age-old mystery of when folk had gathered to celebrate at Durrington Walls - i.e., was it summertime or winter - Britain’s top archaeoastronomer Professor Clive Ruggles of Leicester University was invited to find out exactly what the Avenue points at.
Clive proved the Avenue's axis to aim at where the sun sets in June beneath Durrington’s north-western bank. This also agrees with the alignment found by the astronomer Professor John North, sometime previous to 1996.
So, the Stonehenger’s celebrated the setting summer solstice at Durrington Walls, not the winter. Pigs borne in October were brought from all around the country to be slaughtered at Durrington when 9-months old. Those pigs, or piglets, whose short lives represented the human gestation period, were obvious offerings to the sun and moon.
If you want a job doing right, do it yourself. So, on solstice day 21st June 2018, you might have seen me standing close to the blue tractor which marks the position of the Southern Circle while I waited for the summer sun to go down.
It came as a bit of a shock to find that the sunset can no longer be seen from the Southern Circle because of bushes growing alongside the old road. So, a hurried leaping of a few fences were made to get into a better position.
I did manage to get a beautifully clear picture of the sun going down beneath Durrington’s north-western bank, but this alone was not enough to help determine the azimuth of the Avenue. The final determination was achieved by superimposing the sun's position onto both Professor Wainwright's original plans and also satellite images from online Bing.
The sunset at Durrington Walls is a spectacle that must be seen. Especially so for the feeling you get when climbing out of the henge to find its still daytime!
11. This is my picture of the setting summer solstice sun seen from inside the Durrington Walls Henge. 21 June 2018.
12. The so-called ‘Sex-Pit’ found in the middle of the Avenue held a female pelvis of natural flint, together with four male phalli and several pairs of flint balls. As far as I am aware, an in-situ picture showing these male and female artefacts together, has never been published. And for obvious reasons!
Furthermore, it could be argued by many, me included, that the avenue leading to the river has long been expected to exist. Professor John North for another, when in 1996 he wrote - The distance between the centre of the Southern Circle and the river is 200 megalithic yards.
However, we now know that the Southern Circle was an egg.
13.We have already mentioned that the sun rose approximately 49-degrees clockwise and set 49-degrees anticlockwise from north at Stonehenge, but that's because Stonehenge overlooks a relatively level horizon. actually 0.5-degree elevation.
However, the summer sun sets much earlier at Durrington Walls for having to look uphill at it - by some 4-degrees. Seen from the 'Avenue', the sun sets 60-Degrees anticlockwise from north, and the moon sets at 50. It's almost as if the sun and moon have swopped places.
14. Based on a picture taken off the TV. It gives an idea of excavations, so far.
An old picture now, but this image proves the posts of the Southern Circle to be placed in families of three. That is also what makes it so extremely difficult to be sure of the underlying geometry that the eggs are based on.
A vital discovery is the finding of a clear break in the outer circuit to the north-east. That break is at the very point where a midden, complete with beaker and other pottery sherds, plus numerous animal bones, axes and flints, were found together in a mass of burnt ashes and charcoal a third of a metre thick.
This midden was packed with stone age ingredients and appears like an eye dropper that patiently waits to dispense its fertile contents into the circle at the time of the setting moon!
When is charcoal, charcoal, and when is charcoal not charcoal but simply the ashes of burnt timber? There's a big difference between the two, and Wainwright's report does not make it clear. If it was real charcoal, then people of 2,500 BC had the ability to melt copper.
Archaeologists accept that the Southern Circle is connected to Stonehenge; first by the avenue that goes down to the river Avon, then along the river until it reached a circle of stones situated on the north bank of the river and near to the town of Amesbury.
This circle of stones, known as Bluestonehenge, was the original Stonehenge. Stonehenge MK1
16. Note how the solstice axis, which being central to the Avenue, is offset from the centre of the monument to pass centrally through the exit posts (not entrance) to cross over every axes of eggs as it does so.
17. Durrington Walls, Southern Circle of Timber, Outer Ring A.
We can be fairly sure of the geometry of Ring A, because, like its neighbour Woodhenge, it is based on three circles. Here we see a pair of 46 MY circles, spread apart by one-megalithic yard. Woodhenge Ring A is similar, but there the spread is two-megalithic yards.
18. While I found this egg to point 41-degree anticlockwise from north, it's more likely to be 40. Durrington Walls' Southern Circle consists of at least three eggs, all pointing different ways, and every one of their axes are crossed by the solstice. But let's leave Durrington for a while and return to Stonehenge. Please press the Continued Button.