The stonehenge megalithic complex (south-west England) is still surrounded by mysteries about what its real use was, among the possibilities, that served as a solar calendar, whose operation has been described by a team of experts in the journal Antiquity.
The circle of large stones that form this set, erected between the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age, it may have represented a calendar that followed a solar year of 365.25 days and was calibrated by the alignment of the solstice.
A team led by the University of Bournemouth (United Kingdom) considers that the site was designed as a solar calendar and, To try to understand how it works, they also studied other ancient calendar systems.
Recent research has shown that all of the large sandstone blocks, called sarsens, were added during the same construction phase, around 2,500 BC, and came from a single area in the county of Wiltshire, which would indicate that they functioned as a single unit.
The team, led by Timothy Darvill of the aforementioned university, analyzed the sarsens and their numerology to compare it with other known calendars of this time.
Stonehenge, the team suggests, would have served as a physical representation of the year, helping to the ancient inhabitants of Wiltshire to keep track of days, weeks and months.
“The proposed calendar works very simply. Each of the 30 stones in the sarsen circle represents a day within a month, divided into three weeks of 10 days each”, explained Darvill, who specified that the distinctive stones of the circle mark the beginning of each week
In addition, the calendar needed an intercalary month of five days and a leap day every four years to coincide with the solar year.
The intercalary month, “probably dedicated to the deities of the place”, according to Darvill, is represented by the five trilithons (two large vertical stones supporting one horizontal) in the center of the site and the four station stones outside the circle of sarsens. they provide markers to jot down until a leap day.
Thus, the winter and summer solstices would be framed by the same pairs of stones each year. One of the trilithons also frame the winter solstice, indicating that it could be the new year.
This solstitial alignment also helps calibrate the calendar: any errors in counting the days would be easily detectable, since the sun would be in the wrong place at the solstices.
Such a calendar, with 10-day weeks and extra months, may seem unusual today. However, This type of calendar was adopted by many cultures during this period, notes Bournemouth University
This type of solar calendar developed in the eastern Mediterranean in the centuries after 3,000 BC and was adopted in Egypt as a civil calendar around 2700 and it was widely used at the beginning of the Old Kingdom, around 2,600 BC, Darvill explained.
This raises the possibility that the calendar that Stonehenge follows may come from the influence of one of these other cultures.
“Finding a solar calendar depicted in the architecture of Stonehenge opens up a whole new way of seeing the monument as a place for the living,” said the expert, “a place where the timing of ceremonies and festivals was connected to the very fabric of the universe and the celestial movements in the heavens.”