How sun, moon helped construct historic British standing stones

Sydney, Aug 18: The earliest standing stone monuments of Britain were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the sun and moon, 5,000 years ago, a new research has suggested.

The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, detailed the use of innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the patterns of alignment of the standing stones.


Examining the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland (Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney), the researchers found a great concentration of alignments towards the Sun and Moon at different times of their cycles.

The researchers discovered a complex relationship between the alignment of the stones, the surrounding landscape and horizon, and the movements of the Sun and the Moon across that landscape.

"This research is finally proof that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2,000 years," said Gail Higginbottom, Researcher at the University of Adelaide.

And 2,000 years later in Scotland, much simpler monuments were still being built that had at least one of the same astronomical alignments found at the great circles.

Examining sites in detail, it was found that about half the sites were surrounded by one landscape pattern and the other half by the complete reverse.

"These chosen surroundings would have influenced the way the Sun and Moon were seen, particularly in the timing of their rising and setting at special times, like when the Moon appears at its most northerly position on the horizon, which only happens every 18.6 years," Higginbottom mentioned.

For example, at 50 per cent of the sites, the northern horizon is relatively higher and closer than the southern and the summer solstice Sun rises out of the highest peak in the north. At the other 50 per cent of sites, the southern horizon is higher and closer than the northern, with the winter solstice Sun rising out of these highest horizons.

According to the study, people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew and invested a tremendous amount of effort and work to do so.


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