London, May 27 : A new study has revealed that the builders of the Stonehenge had a sophisticated knowledge of geometry to rival that of even Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician.
According to a report in The Independent, five years of detailed research, carried out by the Oxford University landscape archaeologist Anthony Johnson, has claimed that Stonehenge was designed and built using advanced geometry.
The geometrical knowledge eventually used to plan, pre-fabricate and erect Stonehenge was learnt empirically hundreds of years earlier through the construction of much simpler monuments, according to Johnson.
The most complex geometrical achievement at Stonehenge is an 87-metre diameter circle of chalk-cut pits which mark the points of a 56-sided polygon, created immediately within the monument's perimeter earthwork.
Johnson used computer analysis and experimental archaeology to demonstrate that this outer polygon was laid out using square and circle geometry.
According to him, the surveyors started by using a rope to create a circle, then laid out the four corners of a square on its circumference, before laying out a second similar square, thus creating an inner octagon.
The points of the octagon were then utilized as anchors for a surveyor's rope, which was used to "draw" arcs that intersected the circumference so as to progressively create the sides of a vast polygon.
This work demonstrated that a 56-sided polygon is the most complex that can easily be created purely through square and circle geometry using a single piece of rope.
It is likely that this basic limitation determined the number of sides of Stonehenge's outer polygon - and may also have led to the 56-sided polygon concept becoming important within wider European religious belief.
Johnson's research shows that Stonehenge derived its design from geometrical knowledge and features no less than six concentric polygons.
The builders also created the famous central stone "horseshoe", utilizing the survey markers used to create the thirty-sided sarsen polygon.
The experimental archaeology demonstrates that most of the monument was pre-planned and that the great stones were pre-fabricated off-site and then installed by surveyor-engineers.
"For years people have speculated that Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory. My research suggests that, apart from mid-summer and mid-winter solar alignments, this was not the case," saidJohnson.
"It strongly suggests that it was the knowledge of geometry and symmetry which was an important component of the Neolithic belief system," he added.
According to Johnson, "It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2000 years before Pythagoras."