Over 5000 years old, Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. Its full purpose remains unknown yet the mystery that surrounds Stonehenge is so enduring and popular that last year over 1.3 million visitors flocked to this ancient monument. There are even several man-made copies of the world-famous heritage site have been built around the world, including an impressive full-scale replica at the Maryhill Museum in Washington, USA.
Painting of the Maryhill replica of Stonehenge (Michael D Martin / Flickr)Stonehenge famously aligns to the solstices, but for the rest of the year it seems strange that these ancient builders would not be aware of the current day, or for that matter how many days remained to the next solstice event. However, a new theory has been presented that suggests Stonehenge was used for more than just marking the winter and summer solstices, or as a sacred burial site.
Recently, Lloyd Matthews (scale modelling expert based in the UK) and Joan Rankin (a retired historian living in Canada), have made an ambitious attempt to rethink the purpose of Stonehenge. Their conclusion, after three years of extensive and laborious research, is that the entire structure was, in fact, a complex and significant prehistoric calendar that could actually count the individual days in a year. Not only did Stonehenge act as a solar calendar, similar to the western calendar used today, but it also acted as a lunar calendar and was important for a developing agricultural society to successfully plan for the seasons.
Lloyd Matthews spent 6 years meticulously researching and constructing two scale models of Stonehenge for display at The Maryhill Museum of Art. The models show Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked when built.
Lloyd Matthew’s models showing Stonehenge as it stands today and as it would have originally looked. Credit: Lloyd MatthewsDuring its construction, Mr Matthews identified three distinct carvings on three of the large stones known as Trilithons (shown below). Curiosity piqued, Mr Matthews approached several experts at the time who were unable to provide an explanation as to what these symbols meant. Dissatisfied with the responses, Mr Matthews decided to continue his research into this ancient puzzle with the help of Joan Rankin, an authority in prehistory.
Stone 52 with ‘The Eye’ symbol. From Left: Stone 52 today (Credit: Lloyd Matthews), Replica of Stone 52 (Credit: Lloyd Matthews), Stone 52 in 1867.
Stone 53 with ‘The Dividers’ symbol. Credit: Lloyd Matthews
Stone 59 with ‘The Parallels’. Left: Stone 59 today. Right: Replica of Stone 59 as it would have once stood. Credit: Lloyd MatthewsTogether, they may have not only successfully cracked the mystery of these three symbols but also discovered the original purpose of 56 unusual holes that were dug around Stonehenge during the very first phase of its construction, famously known as the Aubrey Holes. It appears that these holes could likely have been used as a calendar counting system used to keep track of each passing day, with six and a half revolutions around Stonehenge marking a full year, and using the rising of the Summer Solstice sun as a way of astronomically marking the starting point of each new year.
Replica of Stonehenge showing the Aubrey holes (public domain)As for the mysterious shapes carved into the Trilithons, they have shown how these symbols may have been deliberately positioned to allow the ancient astronomers at Stonehenge keep track of other significant astronomical cycles, including its use not only as a solar calendar but also as a lunar calendar.
Dr Derek Cunningham, an established archaeological expert has even embraced this new theory himself, saying that "the idea is based on some solid observations. Not only can Lloyd now explain his three shapes, Joan's ideas help explain the layout and also the number of Aubrey Holes seen at the site. Neither had been satisfactorily explained before."
Dr Cunningham goes on to say, "Further work is expected, but it now appears that Stonehenge may finally be giving up some of its secrets."
Article source: Rankin, J., Matthews, J., Matthews, L., & Cunningham, D. The Aubrey Hole Calendar – Why 56 Holes. Available from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0_ibtG78fjRdzlkQUc3OHNvdGM/view
Original Source Material: Rankin, J., Matthews, J., & Matthews, L. (2015). The Stonehenge Carvings. Available from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4I_JxBys-S1bUN2ZVVuTk9CaGc/view
SOURCE The Office of Lloyd Matthews
Top image: Image of Stonehenge.
By James Matthews