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Stonehenge – A Dramatic New Theory

March 16th, 2015

1024px-Stonehenge_cloudy_sunsetAn article in The Guardian suggests what we see at Stonehenge is the basement – that the stones supported a platform for rites:

Whether it was a Druid temple, an astronomical calendar or a centre for healing, the mystery of Stonehenge has long been a source of speculation and debate. Now a dramatic new theory suggests that the prehistoric monument was in fact “an ancient Mecca on stilts”.

The megaliths would not have been used for ceremonies at ground level, but would instead have supported a circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens, the theory suggests.

Julian Spalding, an art critic and former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, argues that the stones were foundations for a vast platform, long since lost – “a great altar” raised up high towards the heavens and able to support the weight of hundreds of worshippers…

Spalding, who is not an archaeologist, believes that other Stonehenge theorists have fallen into error by looking down instead of up. His evidence, he believes, lies in ancient civilisations worldwide. As far afield as China, Peru and Turkey, such sacred monuments were built high up, whether on manmade or natural sites, and in circular patterns possibly linked to celestial movements.

He said: “In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be. The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.”

“All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth,” he went on. “That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.”   Read article

24 Responses to “Stonehenge – A Dramatic New Theory”

  1. How does he know that the people of Britain’s past did not revere the earth? Not all temples were raised, only those whose acolytes revered the sky god, i.e mainly in the middle East where monotheism comes from, not Europe! And what about all the other standing stone formations – Avebury, Carnac, Callanish – were they all ground level car parks too? You can guarantee to sell books that challenging orthodox assumptions on very populist historical subjects – Jesus, Hitler, the pyramids etc. no matter how threadbare the theory. I doubt this is any exception. But I could be wrong of course.

  2. That sounds a bit off to me. The guy isn’t an archaeologist, and presents no evidence to back up his speculation. I’ve never heard a similar suggestion from anyone who studies history and archaeology. There are some vague references to gods being worshipped in high places in pre-Christian lore, but that usually refers to naturally occuring heights like mountaintops.

    His views also seem unnecessarily dualistic: the idea that touching the “lowly Earth” was somehow “insulting” to the gods doesn’t seem to fit with most Pagan civilizations that placed a great deal of emphasis on honouring the Earth itself as holy. Why would we assume that the proto-Druid culture that built Stonehenge would take such a low view of the Earth that they couldn’t even perform ceremonies on the ground?

  3. Astonishing that someone so blatantly ignorant makes pronouncements in fields he obviously knows nothing about!

  4. Our sacred mother Earth is not dung. Or rather, dung is incredibly fertile when composted and is therefore sacred fertility. The idea is intriguing and may be right: we worshipped earth and sky standing between earth and sky. Sacred mounds and mountains abound through our genetic history. Uluru in Australia is one of these places. But reviling the earth under our feet was only recently a part of it. I feel that true earth-centered, sky-reverenced spirituality was not divisive.

  5. So, I have to take issue with two things here 1) this guy really has a hypothesis, not a theory (sorry, personal pet peeve as a IRL scientist) and 2) Woodhenge(s)–there’s plenty of examples (around the world, no less, from incredibly disparate cultures) having wooden post circles, not to mention the numerous worldwide examples of peoples worshiping and holding rituals in caves/caverns, etc.

  6. If OBOD had two cents for everybody who had two cents to say about Stonehenge, they wouldn’t need to charge for training materials. As Sir Barry Cunliffe says, there’s not a shred of evidence for the idea, and you have the great unknown of how the solstices would look on such a platform. Or, you discount the solstices entirely as an aspect of the design.

  7. I have it on good authority that at the first ceremony conducted on the platform a number of ritualists fell off while dancing ecstatically and the Health & Safety officers moved in and shut down the whole operation.

      • Me too! I mean, grinning while visualizing the ritualists falling off the platform! (I´m an artist, not a scientist, so who knows what is true, the idea is worth a grin, anyway! *grin*)

    • Very witty and funny comment indeed with ref to the health and safety people.
      It has made me chuckle.

      They were there actually just as I was doing my meditation (clothed in flowers)..Just when I was calm and comfortable,they came and spoiled it all..Typical.

      Peace always.
      And many thanks.

  8. Dats why Yahweh was always walkin aboot in stilts- n at last ladees’shoe fashion has caught up widdaidea

  9. This is by definition a Hypothesis which comes before a theory and like anything, it could be possible that once stonehenge was a platform for something on top of it but just as cultures around the world had raised structures, so to are there endless examples of ceremonial sites that are aligned not just to the heavens but to the energies and happenings of the earth.
    I personally keep my mind open to any new ideas because i know how easy it is for we humans to get persuaded by one belief and attach ourselves so strongly to it, we shut out other possibilities. However I do say that anyone who reads his book, read it with caution and a sceptical mind.
    First of all, his evidence would be very minimal if any at this point in time, second of all, his personal view encroaches on his theory, his belief that because it was elevated above the ground suggests that the ancients were trying to transcend the earth as some kind of thing holding them back. This is not part of his hypothesis i don’t think, and all scientists know they must be careful and mindful of their own opinions getting in the way of the actual evidence.
    Stonehenge cuddles the earth, its stones are in the soil so deep it is literally bonded to the mother and if there was a platform, my view would say that it would have been the balance between land and sky, both are sacred and one.

    The ancient myths and legends and archaeological evidence always suggests that we were earth revering peoples, further more a people that saw things in perspective, seeing the sky and heavens, the earth and sun as part of a system, a sacred cosmic organism, no aspect of nature being more important than the other.

  10. I’m not convinced either, one because of the incredible acoustics. There’s resonance even now if you sing to the stones, and work around the way the site would have reacted to sound suggests that when upright, it would have been an amazing soundscape. not a platform. Two is practical, and to do with lengths of suitable beam, for which you need a lot of very substantial and tall trees. I don’t know the measurement of the circle, but suspect you’d struggle to get planks long enough and sturdy enough to bear weight in the middle. Unprotected flat planks in an English climate also equals rotten wood and plunging through it to certain doom in a very short time frame.

  11. Such a relief that all those astronomical alignments that have been noted in the stone columns, whose only function we now know was to hold up a wooden platform, are pure coincidence. I’d hate to have to think there was some significance in where the stones were actually placed.

  12. Doesn’t work though – the trilithons that form the inner horseshoe are larger than the outer ring.

  13. It seems to me that persons who are deeply steeped in beliefs that are NOT Earth-based will always be looking for a way to hijack another culture’s achievements. Not that I am opposed to their, er, rantings, which I am tempted to file Spalding’s comments under. But then again, if you don’t stand for SOMETHING, you’ll fall for EVERYTHING, and I ain’t fallin’ for the platform theory (no inferred puns intended, ecstatic dancing upon the platform notwithstanding)!!

  14. I see this as an interesting possibility. As I understand it, (and I am no scholar), people of that time lived by the sun, their directional words were used also as cardinal points (eg. the Gaulish Are meant ‘in front’and east; Dexsuo meant behind and in the west). Their settlements most often had openings to the east and west. The sun’s movements were intrinsic to their lifestyle. It was a time of complete ‘being’ within the environment – above and below. If Stonehenge were once to have had a higher level, or even a roof/covering, I am not sure that this would entirely negate their obviously acute oneness with the earth.
    One thing that has often niggled me, is that the monuments of that time had a functionality, they were a practical people as well as accomplished craftspeople and mathematicians, which makes me wonder why pillars of stone or wood would have been erected. Is it not possible that they had a supporting purpose?

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