What Is Stonehenge, Precisely? Scientists Debunk a Standard Concept

  • For years, archaeologists have explored the potential functions of the neolithic monument often known as Stonehenge.
  • Whereas its potential to mark the seasons is nicely understood, some consultants have argued that Stonehenge might be a sort of historic photo voltaic calendar.
  • A brand new examine argues in opposition to this speculation, stating that it does not stand as much as scrutiny in relation to astronomical or historic proof.

Stonehenge, an historic neolithic monument positioned on the Salisbury Plain in England, is among the largest mysteries in archaeology. Nobody is aware of for certain who constructed the well-known circle of stones or for what purpose. On that final level, most archaeologists agree that Stonehenge—on the very least—marks the altering of the seasons, as sure stones seem completely aligned with the solar on solstices and equinoxes.

In 2022, one group of scientists took this spectacular show of archaeoastronomy a step further and argued that Stonehenge was truly a 365-day calendar. The concept was that the 30 sarsen lintels (cross beams) on the outer fringe of the monument represented the 30 days in every month, and with the addition of 5 buildings within the Trilithon Horseshoe (positioned on the middle) together with 4 “station stones” (for leap years), accomplished the surprisingly fashionable 365-day calendar.

This concept would remodel our historic understanding of when people devised photo voltaic calendars, a discovery typically attributed to the traditional Egyptians, relatively than counting on inaccurate lunar-based ones.


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In different phrases, massive … if true.

Nonetheless, not all archaeologists are satisfied of the traditional monument’s calendrical accuracy. A brand new examine revealed in the journal Antiquity argues that the speculation of Stonehenge as a photo voltaic calendar is predicated “on a sequence of pressured interpretations of the astronomical connections of the monument, in addition to on debatable numerology and unsupported analogies.”

Juan Antonio Belmonte from Spain’s College of La Laguna and Giulio Magli from Polytechnic College of Milan argue in opposition to this principle alongside three main factors. The primary is fundamental astronomy: Merely put, Stonehenge’s neolithic architects would haven’t any approach of exactly accounting for the refined change within the solar’s each day place (which accounts to one-tenth of a level) utilizing huge stones. Whereas the monument does mirror some curiosity within the photo voltaic cycle, Belmonte and Magli argue that it’s prone to anchor lunar occasions relatively than explicitly counting the times.

The second is a typical facet of archaeology often known as “numerology,” which is the power to search out essential numbers from historic sources should you look laborious sufficient. Whereas the sarsen lintels, together with the extra stones positioned at Stonehenge’s inside, may theoretically add as much as 12 months, there is no such thing as a indication inside the monument itself that they account for 12 months inside a yr.

“On this case, a ‘key quantity’ of the alleged calendar, 12, isn’t recognizable wherever,” a press release from the Polytechnic College of Milan states. “The idea suffers additionally from the so-called ‘choice impact,’ a process through which solely the weather favorable to a desired interpretation are extracted from the fabric data.”

The ultimate concern is considered one of easy historical past, as Egyptians didn’t even start to account for a leap day till 2,000 years after Stonehenge. This suggests that architects of Stonehenge would have wanted to work out this element for themselves whereas additionally one way or the other studying of Egypt’s photo voltaic calendar, which no archaeological proof helps.

The true nature and goal of Stonehenge stays a thriller, however archaeologists will be fairly assured crossing out issues that this fascinating monument is decidedly not.

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Darren lives in Portland, has a cat, and writes/edits about sci-fi and the way our world works. You will discover his earlier stuff at Gizmodo and Paste should you look laborious sufficient.