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Downward Pointing axe heads

11 October 2012

At www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/revealed-early-bronze-age… … is another bit of whacko journalism. It is well known how some of the stones at Stonehenge have small carvings on them but laser scanning has revealed a whole lot more of them. For some reason the article only mentions axe heads and daggers although various other images have been noted previously. The lack of imagination in the title is repeated in the interpretation placed on them. Axe heads, in various cultures, we are informed, are often associated with what are known as Storm gods – gods that unleash lightning bolts (or even perhaps something more substantial, it might be added). As nothing of great moment comes out of the sky in the modern world, apart from the odd piece of burnt out space junk or the occasional shooting star, it is supposed nothing extraordinary came out of the sky in the past – and this is where the imagination hits a brick wall. The correct interpretation should be, we don't why people carved downward pointing axe heads on stones at Stonehenge and upward pointing dagger blades, or even why they would want to carve any image on the stones. The journalist goes on to spout words to the effect the axe heads were engraved as votive offerings to placate a storm god and protect their crops. What from?

Laser scanning has revealed some of the axe head images have exactly the same dimensions and a real axe head may have been used as a sort of stencil in order to produce an outline. The idea the engravers may have worked with a measuring unit and tool is unthinkable it would seem. However, the notion creates a problem as the largest axe heads portrayed imply axes that were much bigger than anything archaeologists have ever found.

Laser scanning also revealed many more carvings than were thought to exist, so many they have earned the glib title of an 'art gallery' an 'underwhelming' way of coping with the reality they were mostly axe heads – but why? The survey and analysis also showed another insight into Stonehenge. It shows that finely worked surfaces of the stones were done with the NE view in mind. This provides a view of the sky at a particular point in the year – but was it a night time view they were looking at or a daytime or daybreak view? It is also where the Avenue approaches the monument, coming round in a loop (from the river), thought for many years to be a processional way – but was it?

The analysis also showed that at the more ruinous SW side of the circle the stones there were also deliberately worked and shaped to allow a line of sight (assumed to be towards the setting Sun in mid winter). Hence, the SW side, as well as the NE side, had  played a role in what was being looked at – and that at some stage in the past there had been a deliberate attempt to destroy that function. This is interesting because such an act would seem to contradict the consensus view that it was the rising and the setting of the Sun the builders had been interested in looking at – and yet the Sun continues to rise and set. Why would they have become disillusioned with that?

This causes some interesting trains of thought – was Stonehenge 'decommissioned' like so many other prehistoric monuments (as in Orkney for example). What caused the lintels to collapse – humans pushed uprights in an act of 'closure' or was it some kind of accident or bad engineering, even an earth tremor. Going by what happened at numerous other megalithic monuments and what had previously happened at Stonehenge, a series of rearrangements, the act of closure appears to be the most likely – but does that invalidate the idea it was constructed to look at the rising and setting of the Sun? Not known. The Mexicans and Peruvians were interested in the Sun – yet they decommissioned their cities on several occasions. The interesting thing to note, if it collapsed as a result of an accident why was there no attempt to repair it? Why did many other monuments go out of use in the same general time frame.

Another valuable insight gained from the laser scanning is that stone dressing techniques differed, suggesting they were undertaken at different points of time by different people or different generations. For example, it looks like the trilithons may have been erected prior to the circle.

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