[Updated] Stonehenge Is a Moon Temple? Recent Lunar Standstill Sheds New Light on It!

21st May 2024
[Updated] Stonehenge Is a Moon Temple? Recent Lunar Standstill Sheds New Light on It!

It might be the greatest secret Stonehenge has to reveal. On the longest day of the year, the sun shines by rising right through the middle of this temple and stone circle, making Stonehenge believed to be a Sun Temple. What about the moon? A team of experts, including the Royal Astronomical Society, are stirring up some lunar intrigue. They’re suggesting that Stonehenge might have a cosmic connection with the moon, too.

The experts suggest that the ancient monument’s station stones could’ve been strategically placed to sync up with the moon’s cycle during what’s called a “major lunar standstill.” This lunar phenomenon happens just once every 18.6 years. So, let’s unravel the mysterious celestial ties of Stonehenge together!

Update 26 June

Researchers at Stonehenge
Fabio Silva, Amanda Chadburn, and Clive Ruggles during the lunar standstill at Stonehenge. Credits: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

This Friday (21st of June), a fascinating convergence of archaeologists, astronomers, and archaeoastronomers gathered at Stonehenge under the full moon to explore a compelling theory about its ancient builders. While Stonehenge is widely known for its solar alignments, there is growing interest in its potential connections to lunar events, particularly the “major lunar standstill”.

Clive Ruggles, an emeritus professor of archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, explained “This is a special night because the moon is passing at its lowest possible path through the sky and also it’s full while it’s doing it so it’s the two things together.” The focus of the research is on four “station stones” that form a rectangle around the main stone circle. These stones appear to align with the moon’s most southerly rise and northerly set during the lunar standstill.

Heather Sebire, English Heritage’s senior curator for Stonehenge, suggested that the monument’s builders, as early farmers, would have been keen observers of natural phenomena, including the moon. She also pointed out that some of Stonehenge’s bluestones “caught the moonlight beautifully,” which might have influenced their selection for the monument.

While cloudy weather on the night of the full moon hindered observations, researchers remain optimistic and plan to come back to the lunar standstill in January 2025, with opportunities for study extending months on either side. This research not only sheds light on Stonehenge’s potential lunar connections but also highlights the sophisticated astronomical knowledge of ancient cultures.

Update 19 June

Just Stop Oil activists spray Stonehenge with orange powder paint, resulting in two arrests as thousands gather for the Summer Solstice celebrations. Activists claim that the orange cornflour used to spray the monuments will be washed away by rain.

Decoding Stonehenge: The Puzzle of Ancient Engineering

Stonehenge's View
Credit: CNN Style

Stonehenge was built and modified several times over the course of a thousand years, starting around 5,000 years ago. The illustration above shows what Stonehenge likely resembled based on the remnants we see today. However, some crucial stones are missing, leaving archaeologists to speculate whether the original design was ever fully realised. Towering structures known as trilithons, with the tallest standing at an impressive 9 meters (30 feet), remain among the few standing elements. Originally, there were only three trilithons intact, but restoration efforts in the 1950s resurrected a fourth.

Stonehenge scheme
Past & present structure. Approximate scheme of Stonehenge
Credit: creatureandcreator.ca

Intriguingly, the smaller stones, referred to as bluestones, present a geological puzzle. Their source lies over 200 km away, sparking ongoing debates over whether they were transported by ancient peoples or deposited by glaciers. Despite their diminutive size compared to the trilithons, these bluestones still weigh a hefty 3 to 4 tons each, making their transportation akin to moving 40 deceased hippos from Cardigan to Salisbury without the aid of wheels.

Architectural Mastery of the Past

Stonehenge’s enigmatic construction, dating back to the Neolithic era, offers scant written records, leaving modern investigators to decipher its purpose and methods. Yet, clues persist in the form of tools and materials left behind. Antlers, utilised as picks for digging, provide organic material for radiocarbon dating, aiding archaeologists in piecing together the timeline of the monument’s construction.

The precision of Stonehenge’s assembly is striking. The top ring, composed of lintels, showcases woodworking joints meticulously crafted to interlock with upright stones. These intricate connections, resembling puzzle pieces, not only demonstrate the builders’ skill but also ensure the monument’s stability, even on uneven terrain – a testament to ancient engineering prowess.

Stonehenge landscape
Credit: Vox YouTube Channel

Beyond the iconic stone circle lies a larger ceremonial landscape, encompassing earthworks, ditches, and mounds. An avenue, culminating at the entrance marked by the Heel Stone, leads to this expansive circle. Additionally, four stones arranged in a rectangle within this landscape hint at possible lunar connections.

Stonehenge Is Chasing the Sun

Visitors take photos of the sunrise at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.
Credit: time.com

This ancient site undoubtedly held profound significance for the Neolithic people who constructed it, yet despite centuries of analysis and speculation, the true meaning remains shrouded in mystery. However, one thing is certain: Stonehenge’s design reflects an early exploration of astronomy.

In the 18th century, a keen-eyed historian made a pivotal observation: the central axis of Stonehenge aligns with the point on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. While not a perfect alignment, it’s remarkably close. Picture yourself standing amidst the stones, gazing toward the Heel stone on June 21st – the summer solstice – and witnessing the sunrise.

During the summer solstice, the sun reaches its northernmost point, casting its rays from the northeast as it rises and sinking into the northwest as it sets. This celestial phenomenon occurs because of Earth’s tilt relative to its orbit around the sun, causing the sun’s path to seemingly pause and change direction at the solstices.

Credit: English Heritage YouTube Channel

In essence, Stonehenge’s alignment with the summer solstice offers a tangible connection between ancient peoples and the celestial rhythms that governed their lives. Yet, the full extent of Stonehenge’s astronomical significance and its role ins creators the lives of it remains a subject of fascination and ongoing exploration.

Winter Solstice Connection

But the people who built Stonehenge didn’t know the earth moves or spins around the sun’s tilted axes. They probably didn’t even suspect it was round. They just saw the sun bring longer days in the summer and shorter days in the winter, and those turning points would have meant a lot for their food security.

Winter solstice and Stonehenge
Credit: english-heritage.org.uk

For these early communities, the turning points of the seasons held profound significance, none more so than the winter solstice. Remarkably, Stonehenge’s alignment reveals a symmetry between the summer solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset, albeit in opposite directions—toward the northeast and southwest, respectively. This celestial synchronicity resonates with other ancient monuments, such as Ireland’s Newgrange tomb, where the sunrise on the winter solstice illuminates the inner chamber through a carefully positioned window.

Newgrange’s window. Credit: history.co.uk

The archaeological record further illuminates the winter solstice’s importance at Stonehenge. Analysis of pig bones from nearby settlements, believed to have been slaughtered in winter based on their age, suggests an annual pilgrimage and feast marking this celestial event. The idea is that people would have approached the monument by walking on the avenue, which would have put the midwinter sunset in their sightline, right in the window of the tallest trilithon. Historian John North argued that when viewed from this side, the monument’s silhouette would have looked like a solid black form, with the setting sun bursting through, bringing the promise of another spring.

Stonehenge’s Lunar Blueprint: Were Its Builders Guided by the Moon?

2023 Pink Moon setting over Wiltshire's famous landmark
Credit: Nick Bull (Stonehenge Dronescapes)

Now, while Stonehenge’s connection to the sun is well-documented, what about its relationship with the moon? As reported by The Guardian, archaeologists and astronomers are seizing an upcoming rare lunar event to investigate whether Stonehenge was also attuned to the moon. Specifically, the monument’s station stones may have been strategically positioned to correspond with the extreme points of the moon’s orbit during what’s known as a “major lunar standstill,” occurring approximately every 18.6 years.

Stonehenge's moon and sun alignment.
Scientists suggest a rare lunar movement may have been noticed in the early phase of Stonehenge’s construction. Credit: English Heritage

During this rare celestial event, the moon rises and sets at more extreme points along the horizon than usual, reaching heights in the sky greater than the summer sun and lower than the winter sun.

We’ll Figure It Out in JUNE!

The lunar standstill is when the moon reaches its furthest point to the north or its furthest point to the south within a month. Due to lunar precession, the declination at a lunar standstill varies over a cycle of 18.6 years, with the extremes referred to as minor and major lunar standstills.

According to English Heritage, the four Station Stones at Stonehenge align with the southernmost moonrise during the major lunar standstill that will happen this Friday, 21st of June. You can watch it live on YouTube at 21:30 BST (4:30 p.m. EST). Archaeologists and astronomers will study the monument during the major lunar standstill to test the hypothesis that the four station stones were positioned to track it.

While only two of the original four station stones remain, evidence suggests they formed a rectangle and may have been positioned to track the moon’s extreme positions. Cremated human remains discovered within the monument, particularly concentrated in the southeast, align with the moon’s southernmost rising point, hinting at a possible lunar connection in burial practices.

Remains at an Aubrey Hole at Stonehenge
Archaeologists discovered charred human remains at an Aubrey Hole at Stonehenge. Credits: Aerial – Cam/SWNS Group.

The investigation’s timeline extends beyond the major lunar standstill itself, as the moon continues to rise and set further north or south than usual before and after the event. English Heritage plans to livestream the moonrise at its southernmost point and host a series of events centred around this celestial phenomenon. Moreover, collaboration with the University of Colorado and the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service will compare lunar alignments at Stonehenge with those at Chimney Rock, an area inhabited by the Chaco Culture, offering valuable insights into ancient astronomical practices across different cultures.

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1 comment

  1. I enjoyed watching the live broadcast of the ‘Major Lunar Standstill Moonrise from Stonehenge’ on friday june 21, 2024.

    The main question was whether the ‘Station Stones’ were deliberately placed by the builders to mark the major lunar standstill. By the way, this is not a new suspicion. About 60 years ago, Peter Newham and Gerald Hawkins independently introduced this idea. I believe that this study should be much broader, because in addition to this reference to a lunar standstill, there are four other references in and around the stone circle that seem to point in this direction.

    The most important indication that the builders deliberately chose to capture lunar standstills comes from the stone circle itself. The left standing stone of the ‘Central Trilithon’ is shone exactly in the middle by the moon when it rises during a major lunar standstill. The right stone is shone in the middle during a minor lunar standstill. The best time to observe this is on september 24, 2024 at 22:14 British time (www.timeanddate.com), but it is also possible on october 21 or november 18, 2024.

    The next indication to believe that lunar standstills were tracked comes from the ‘Aubrey Holes’. These can be used as a calendar to keep track of the shortest period of 9 years between two lunar standstills. Two rounds of 56 holes and (synodic) moon cycles make 112 and that is exactly 9 years.

    The longest period of 19 years between two major or minor lunar standstills is also recorded in the structure of a horseshoe of 19 blue stones between the trilithons.

    Finally, the placement of the ‘Heel Stone’ also refers to the lunar standstills. When you look from this stone along the left side of the stone circle, that is the place where the moon sets during a major lunar standstill. If you look from this position along the right side of the stone circle, this is the place where the moon sets during a minor lunar standstill.

    These are, in my opinion, five clear indications that the builders of Stonehenge were well aware of and tracked the lunar standstills! In 2019 I wrote an article about how Stonehenge refers to the moon, in which I explain everything in detail. This article was posted on the site of the Dutch Dolmen Center in February 2022, alongside other articles by me.

    I also made a short documentary about it for my Youtube channel ‘Stars and Stones Mysteries’

    This one will only take you seventeen minutes to watch. I hope you will make the effort to take a look at my vision and see its value for better understanding Stonehenge.

    Kind Regards,

    Peter van den Hoek
    [email protected]

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