What we learned about Stonehenge this week is that it wasn’t built for summer celebrations.
In his book Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos, North showed by meticulous calculation how the alignment of Stonehenge was not, as was long supposed, to the Midsummer sunrise, but to its setting on the day of the Winter Solstice: in other words, to that very moment when the old year dies before nature begins its return to new life. For our Neolithic ancestors, it was thus a midwinter festival equivalent to our Christmas or the Roman Saturnalia.
We must now await further word from the academic discoverers of this new “Super-henge” on how they think its builders 4,500 years ago, like those of Stonehenge, directed it towards the position of the sun at just the moment when the year dies to be reborn. It was this which, when I first wrote about it on December 24 2006, inspired one of my sub-editors to the memorable headline “Have yourself a Megalithic Christmas”.
Stonehenge Guided Tours