The latest 3D laser technology has revealed new evidence of the importance of the midwinter sunset to the ancient creators of Stonehenge.
The detailed laser scan and digital imaging of Stonehenge commissioned by English Heritage showed significant differences in how various stones were shaped and worked.
The varying techniques and amounts of work confirms not only that the builders intended to align the monument on the axis of the sun at midsummer and midwinter, but also that the view from the north east was particularly important.
Researchers said it was clear the stones were meant to be approached from the north east up the ancient processional avenue towards the direction of the midwinter sunset.
Approaching and viewing the stone circle from this direction meant the winter solstice sunset had particular importance to prehistoric people, and efforts were made to create a dramatic spectacle for those coming from the north east, experts said.
The stones in the outer circle which could be seen on the approach from the north east have been completely “pick dressed”, removing the brown and grey crust of the rock on the surface to reveal the bright, grey-white underneath.
But the outer faces of those on the other side of the outer circle were not worked in the same way.
The stones facing the north east are also the largest and most uniform, and the lintels are very well-worked and finished compared to those elsewhere in Stonehenge.
Stones that flanked the north east/south west axis of the summer and winter solstices were most carefully worked to create straight and narrow rectangular gaps.
The researchers said that as other stones in the monument have more natural, less neat outlines, it seems that the creators were making a special effort to allow a dramatic passage of sunlight through the stone circle at midsummer and midwinter.
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