"A Stonehenge Question"
Copyright © , Larry McNish All Rights Reserved
Stonehenge (not a tomb)
The study of the design and very long history of Stonehenge is one of my "side-favorites" because of the way ancient people determined some pretty significant astronomical alignments (and limits) without telescopes, trigonometry, or even the wheel.
Like the ancient pyramid builders, I give those prehistorical builders a lot of credit for overcoming obstacles - and not just once, but hundreds of times, and all over the world.
I've written a couple of articles on this:
See my "Tomb Building 101" page: http://calgary.rasc.ca/tomb101.htm
And my "Stonehenge at Calgary?" page: http://calgary.rasc.ca/calgary-stonehenge.htm
Anyway, a while ago, during one of our many public star nights, a guy came up to me, in the dark, and started a conversation:
Later I thought of why it came to me so quickly.
In today's world, people can't conceive of a large construction project without using bulldozers, back-hoes, dumptrucks, construction cranes etc. - all supervised by a Certified Project Manager and the Health And Safety Officer.
Got to lift a 100 ton block of stone? - Better call the specialized crane operators.
Need it done in a week / month / season? - Get more specialized equipment and trained, experienced operators.
Time is money!
Back then, there were no such things.
There were people that could look at a problem and come up with a solution given the resources and materials at hand.
Don't have any Water Systems Engineers? - Build the Roman Aqueducts anyway.
Need to build a road across a river? - Come up with the stone arch and lay a road on top of a bunch of them.
The Pharaoh wants to build a pyramid bigger than any of the hundred or so that have already been built? - Use a few generations of experienced craftsmen and someone to solve a few problems - or you are put to death.
And one possible significant reason for such progress:
Got a few hundred or a thousand warriors that just won some huge battles and now have nothing to do? - You'd better FIND them something to do, or they'll sit around and just might come up with the idea that their king (you) should be overthrown this winter.
So, you and your court astronomer (with his knowledge of the starry sky) come up with a plan to KEEP EVERYONE BUSY when they're not killing and plundering. And you give the project to him and a few bright guys. Then you give your very strong and determined and merciless soldiers a few years to do it, unlimited labour, food, water, and a place for their families to live.
Oh, and every few decades, another rich and powerful king gets saddled with the same "idle warrior problem" - so he tells his army that he wants one of the "old" wooden or stone henges torn down and a bigger, better henge built - or else.
And after one or two thousand years - you get Stonehenge.
P.S. "Another Stonehenge Question"
Question: How could they have determined the precise direction of the Equinoxes, the Solstices, and things like North, South, East, and West without like, Google Earth, GPS receivers, a compass or something, eh?
Answer: It's really not difficult at all - just find a large flat field.
Oh, and that red "A" line? If you did this every day of the year you would find that during mid Summer, the stones at the end of the red lines are clustered together - about 4 or 5 of them on top of each other. That means you have found the most northward position of the Sun - the "Summer Solstice" (since the Sun slows its apparent Northward progression, stops, and begins its apparent Southward progression around that day).
Oh and the dark blue "E" line? - It will end up telling you the exact direction of the "Winter Solstice".
So you know the exact directions of East and West and the Solstices. How do you determine North and South? You can't use Polaris the "North Star" because Polaris WASN'T the North Star ages ago due to something called Earth's Precession. And, you probably don't care either, because the other six directions are much more important to your society (especially the farmers).
But if you did want to find North and South, then just take two identical long ropes and stretch them out from the two ends of the East-West lines, then move towards each other in an arc till the ends meet (Point "X" above). Regardless of how long the ropes are (providing they're quite a bit longer than the other ropes), they will mark the North or South points for your henge. But as I said, this was probably not very important to them.
In other times, if you aligned the square base of your pyramid due East and due West as I've show how to do, the sides will naturally align due North and due South.
Even More About Stonehenge
Stonehenge Station Stone Alignments (by the Author)
Base diagram from Wikipedia Commons.
My suggestion for building a Stonehenge replica at Calgary
And search YouTube for "Operation Stonehenge" or "Stonehenge What Lies Beneath"
(There are several video uploads of the NOVA or BBC productions which get taken down and then show up somewhere else.)