This one appears, on the face of it, to be fighting a battle that has long been put to bed by mainstream – the Stonehenge calendar theories. It seems it has nothing to do with the likes of ‘Stonehenge Decoded‘ or the astronomical theories of Alexander Thom in the 1960s. These were treated with a lot of suspicion by Antiquity journal. It seems Antiquity have published a new study – debunking a recent theory of Stonehenge as a calendrical instrument of some kind – see https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.33 … Guilio Maglio et al, ‘Archaeoastronomy and the alleged Stonehenge calendar.’
It tells us that over the years several theories have been put forward about the meaning of Stonehenge, and its function. Today, it adds, archaeologists have a rather clear picture of this monument as a ‘place for the ancestors’ located within a complex ancient landscape etc. See https://phys.org/news/2023-03-stonehenge-calendar-shown-modern.html … which appears to fit the preferred narrative as favoured by Antiquity. Anything to obscure the fact nobody knows what lies behind it.
However, the authors also say archaeoastronomy has a key role in this interpretation since Stonehenge exhibits an astronomical alignment to both the summer solstice sunrise and the midwinter solstice sunset. This, they say, is a symbolic interest by the builders, in the solar cycle. Is that tenable – or is it guesswork? They add, ‘probably related to the connection between the afterlife and winter solstice in Neolithic societies …’ – which is another assumption.
This is very far from saying the monument was used as a giant calendrical device as has been proposed in a new theory published in Antiquity. According to this theory the monument represents a calendar based on 365 days in a year divided into 12 months of 30 days – plus five epagonal days [and the alloting of a leap year every 4 years]. This calendar is similar to one from Alexandria – over 2000 years later. It was a combination of the Julian calendar with the Egyptian civil calendar. The latter did not have leap years, it is inferred.
The article is therefore a riposte to an earlier article. It does not address early European calendars as Euan MacKie did, or the Coligny calendar. The offending article was the subject of an In the News post back in March of 2022. See https://sis-group.org.uk/news/2022/03/06/stonehenge-solar-calendar/ … and was written by Timothy Darvill for Antiquity journal. He passed muster because he is one of the top figures in British archaeology, and is also keen on the idea of Stonehenge as a place of the dead. See also https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.5 … and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10565141/ … In the 2022 post I said that Darvill has opened a can of worms. This is the first of the fight backs against Darvill, it would seem – and no doubt there are more in the pipeline.
The new article does have some interesting positives. Magli and Belmonte show that the slow movement of the sun on the horizon in the days close to solstices makes it impossible to control the correct working of Darvill’s calendar, as the device, composed of big stones, should be able to distinguish positions accurately, which it cannot. While the existence of the alignments does display an interest in the solar cycle, in a broad sense, it provides no proof whatsoever for inferring the number of days in a year. In other words, the alignment is roughly accurate, and does pick out the period around the solstices – several days, or a week or so, rather than a single solstice day. This of course fits in reasonably well if the builders were more interested in watching for the coming appearance of the Taurid meteor stream, which occurred around summer solstice, for example, in daylight hours. It was therefore invisible, arriving without warning. Setting up some big stones to plot the estimated arrival of the meteor stream, which would have occurred over several days, beginning shortly prior to midsummer day, was adequately provided by the alignment. Most years the earth would have crossed the stream without much of a problem. A few fireworks. Sometimes the earth would have passed through a dense part of the stream which could have been catastrophic for people on the surface of the earth. In the modern world the stream has mostly dissipated over time and is spread over a far wider area of space. Presumably, most of the constituent parts of the stream have also broken up into smaller and smaller space rocks, in keeping with the behaviour of chondritic meteors. The monument, it might be said, was a consequence of an earlier encounter, around 3200BC. This was associated with the Piorra Oscillation and an early manifestation of plague. It caused a severe drop in population numbers in Britain – and led to the migration of people from the steppe zone, east, west, and south. On the other hand, Mandelkehr suggested the comet of Clube and Napier broke up around 2300BC – when Stonehenge was under its final construction phase. If the people behind the monument had witnessed that break-up they may have realised it had potential disastrous affects for them on the surface of the earth, with the creation of a new, dense, meteor stream that periodically encountered the orbit of the earth. It seems a similar series of events led to the end of the Late Neolithic period in Britain and the arrival of the Beaker folk. These newcomers inherited Stonehenge and may have been responsible for the final phase – leading up to the second, catastrophic encounter with the meteor stream in around 2150BC. It coincided with the fall of the Akkadian dynasty in what is now Iraq, and the disappearance of dynasty 6 in Egypt, followed by the First Intermediate Period [famine and migration]. This would of course be all too much for your average archaeologist to swallow.
Criticism of Darvill then proceeds to numbers and the idea of a 12 month calendar and his proposed link to the Egyptian calendar, and so on. Well worth reading if only to understand current thinking on ancient calendars, and the favoured interpretation of sites such as Stonehenge. In reality, there is a mystery, if archaeologists would consult astronomers such as Clube and Napier and the evolution of the Taurid meteor stream complex over the last ten thousand years.