Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Mar 4th - Mar 10th, 2005

Moon Lodge

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      There is increasing evidence that astronomical awareness was much more widespread among indigenous cultures than had previously been suspected. Last week we examined some of the alignments found in Poverty Point, Louisiana, at a site which opens the door to the entire Native American Mound Culture which flourished throughout the central regions of this land. From Florida to Oklahoma to Wisconsin, Kentucky and North Carolina (and points in between), there is evidence of the construction of artificial mounds created by Native Americans which may have been used for both solar and lunar observations. This week, we'll review evidence regarding a celestial observatory which most folks will be more familiar with, Stonehenge.

      In his now famous work, Stonehenge Decoded, Gerald Hawkins first postulated to the academic community in 1965 that the stones on the Salisbury Plain may have been used for serious scrutiny and calibration of the heavens. In large measure, the scientific community was unimpressed at that time. Stonehenge

      "...many archaeologists dismissed the theory because of the poor site plan. In 1978, Richard Atkinson published a precise survey of the Station Stone rectangle, the Heel Stone and the Avenue axis, 'because the possible astronomical significance of Stonehenge has made it desirable to make new measurements of its features.' Re-calculated alignment values confirm that not only did the centre of the sun's disk line up with the axis exactly at mid-summer sunrise and closely at mid-winter sunset, but that the centre of the High Moon lined up with the long sides of the Station Stone rectangle at midwinter moonset."

      -British Archaeology, January 2004, p. 20.

      The article goes on to say that the original Phase One set of 56 posts have now also worked their way into the equation, and they underscore lunar, rather than simply solar, observation. Within about a century of 3,000 BC, the original Stonehenge was complete, a circle surrounded by a ditch, with 56 evenly placed posts aligned just inside the outer edge of the circle. The eclipse cycle, also known as the Metonic cycle, has been determined to be 18.6, or, in whole numbers, nineteen years. This means that if there is an eclipse on the Winter Solstice one year, that there will be another eclipse on that same date nineteen years later. It is a basic way of keeping track of the eclipse cycle. The problem is that if you simply use this equation, the Moon tends to drift a little from your observation mark. It is close, but not precisely on the alignment. If, however, you use a 56 year cycle, which is a combination of 19 + 18 + 19, the 'drift' is minimized, and eclipse determination is greatly enhanced. It would seem that those who built Stonehenge had knowledge of both of these cycles. There are 19 stones found in the Bluestone Horseshoe, and there are 56 postholes found in the Aubrey Circle, the original circle of wooden posts from Phase One.

Stonehenge Map       Ongoing research is continuing to substantiate, rather than refute, interest in and calibration of the motions of heaven. From the multi-ton megaliths of Salisbury Plain to the smoke holes of the Native American Indians, we are slowly learning once again what was known and passed on in the form of mythic tales long, long ago.
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