The Temples of Albion: A Guest Post by Dan Johnston

Below are some excerpts from my new book The Temples of Albion An Exploration of the Purpose behind Stone Circles dealing with some remarkable Neolithic geometry involved in the siting of Stonehenge and other stone circles. I first started checking relationships when I noted that the Sanctuary, southeast of Avebury, was almost due north of Stonehenge at a bearing of 359.2º, even though it is 25 km (16 mi) away. I started looking for other possible geometries involving Stonehenge and came up with several more compelling coincidences. The excerpts follow:

In writing this book, I have attempted to provide as much peripheral material as possible to improve the likelihood of mustering a comprehensive insight into the circle builders and their outlook on their world. One of the vehicles employed involved pointing out some of the apparent geometric relationships between stone circles, especially in Cornwall and Devon. This effort was necessary to validate the contention that the Neolithic peoples who built the circles had attained a rudimentary understanding of numbers and geometry and used these new tools to build a series of calendar circles over centuries. Along the way, they applied their increasing understanding of geometry, a sacred knowledge in their view, to site new circles in specific locations. This allowed them to create ritual landscapes that served the purpose of their beliefs and turned otherwise trivial circles of stone into arrangements which encompassed miles of terrain and significantly magnified the power of their message.

One of the inherent dangers in using this type of evidence is to have it swept into the New Age ley controversy and brusquely dismissed as just another ridiculous claim of ancient geomancy with all that entails. To limit the possibility of this happening, I restricted the discussions to stone circles only, leaving out standing stones, stone rows, and other megalithic constructions (Ley lines typically involve almost any ancient monument, including churches and the Neolithic kitchen sink, that lies anywhere close to a proposed energy line). Using this limitation, the existence and abundance of geometric relationships between certain stone circles in England has to be considered as more than mere chance, at least in my opinion. To minimize the possibility of these observations being dismissed out of hand, I originally decided to leave out certain interesting but incredible long distance arrangements that stretched my beliefs in the level of knowledge the people of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in Britain possessed.

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On further reflection, I chose to include a discussion of a small portion of the ritual geometry I uncovered to bolster the case for the ceremonial siting of stone circles and, in the process, reinforce the idea that the level of understanding in early Britain was easily up to the task of developing a calendar as sophisticated as any for thousands of years into the future. The best example I came up with on a large scale involves Stanton Drew, Stonehenge and two relatively obscure stone circles, Mardon Down in Devon and Hampton Down in Dorset. Mardon Down has been mentioned as a relatively late stone circle possibly comprising 56 stones lying east of all the other stone circles in Devon. Hampton Down has not been mentioned, primarily because of the conflicting information available and the possibility that it has been enhanced in recent years by the addition of stones.

The basic layout shown above is truly surprising considering the distances between circles. The central fact of the alignments involved is that each of the stone circles shown on the design is an isolated one with most having no separate significant (there are three circles at Stanton Drew) stone circle within 10 km (6.25 mi) except Hampton Down which has three within 0.9 km (0.6 mi), 2.2 km (1.4 mi) and 4.2 km (2.6 mi), two of which happen to form an isosceles triangle with it. The argument that, given enough stone circles in any area, especially Devon, you can find alignments and relationships that are merely happenstance doesn’t really apply. The occurrence of both a right and an isosceles triangle speaks of a fascination with geometric forms as well as cardinal directions. The only anomaly, besides the seeming ability to maintain a fixed bearing over long distances, is the inclusion of an obscure, relatively insignificant stone circle like Hampton Down with the likes of Stonehenge, Stanton Drew and Mardon Down, the largest stone circle in Devon.

The diagram above shows a fairly accurate right triangle formed by Mardon Down, Hampton Down and Stanton Drew with a central angle of 89.8º, very close to a true right angle. The bearing from Hampton Down to Mardon Down is 270.035º and that from Hampton Down to Stanton Drew 359.849º, too close to be considered anything but deliberate. The northern leg of this triangle also forms one of the equal sides of an isosceles triangle with Stonehenge as the third vertex, the other equal side running from Hampton Down to Stonehenge. If a triangle is formed using Mardon Down, Stonehenge and Stanton Drew (not shown for clarity) two of the sides, 56.3 and 112.6, have a ratio of 2:1 which may be accidental but seems improbable merely by chance.
Closer to home, this coincidence is striking considering the juxtaposition of Bluestonehenge in the landscape:

Before moving on to greener pastures, a brief notice of an exciting new stone circle, destroyed by the builders of Stonehenge, needs mention. In 2008, the Stonehenge Riverside Project found a henge with 9 stoneholes inside it near where the Avenue reaches the Avon River. The excavations revealed a bluestone fragments and the stoneholes were the right size to have held bluestones so the new stone circle was christened Bluestonehenge. A circle of stones some 10 m (33’) in diameter had been erected near the end of the Avenue sometime between 3000 and 2400 BC with the stones removed, presumably for use at Stonehenge proper, around 2400 BC. The circle, or possible ellipse, is characterized as consisting of between 24 and 27 stones though the excavations were too limited to really define its character. If we use the average distance between 6 of the stones of 1.12 m and divide this into the 31.4 m circumference we get 28 for the number of stones but this can never be resolved until the entire circle is excavated.

Bluestonehenge is of interest for an entirely different reason than the number of stones in the circle. If we plot its location on a map of Stonehenge and its environs, we get a remarkable relationship made familiar by earlier discussions of how the inhabitants of Britain may have located sites with geometric forms in mind. The figure below shows that Bluestonehenge was not sited randomly along the Avenue but was carefully located to define an approximate isosceles right triangle. It is interesting that the other two vertices of the triangle are at Stonehenge and Woodhenge. Given the timeframe when the circle stood, probably before the sarsens were raised, begs the question of why the easternmost component of the triangle was Woodhenge and not Durrington Walls. As usual, the relationship between the elements in this sacred landscape are too murky for any clear understanding.

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Stonehenge, in its final form, obviously represents much more than a mere calendar as the 30 stones of the Sarsen Circle, so much more daunting than the relatively puny Bluestone Circle, are an echo of the moon, not the sun, in the belief structure of its builders. I will not dwell any further on all the other aspects of Stonehenge’s mysteries as they lie outside the subject of this book except to say that the calendar at Stonehenge, if it is not a product of fevered imagination, is only a small part of the remaining mystery unraveled and anyone who claims to “solve” or “decode” Stonehenge is delusional.

A myriad of other geometrical quirks are discussed in the book, though these relationships are peripheral to the central subject of the book which is the development of an accurate calendar over hundreds of years reflected in the evolution of stone circles with Stonehenge as the ultimate expression.

 Words and images by Dan Johnston.

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3 Responses to The Temples of Albion: A Guest Post by Dan Johnston

  1. eternalidol says:

    Thank you very much for this, Dan; although I’m not a ‘numbers man’, it all looks fascinating and I look forward to reading more at some future point. There are many things that amaze me about Stonehenge and just one of them is the undoubted fact that there are so many ways of looking at the monument and at the landscape around them. As everyone’s well aware, my main interests as far as Stonehenge is concerned are language, folklore, legend and mythology, but while I’m pleased that I’ve brought a few curiosities to light over the course of the past decade, I don’t doubt for a moment that there are many more to be discovered, while I’m certain that precisely the same principle applies to other avenues of exploration, whether these be archaeology, astronomy, geometry or many more disciplines besides.

    I’m no Newton, of course, but when I think of how much keeps coming to light regarding Stonehenge, including your astute observations above, I’m reminded of Newton’s famous quote in which he acknowledged the almost limitless possibilities around any given subject:

    “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

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  2. Dan Johnston says:

    Dennis
    I like the scientific approach only because that’s what I did for 40 years and because you can reconstruct what the Neolithic genii at Stonehenge accomplished within limits. Myth, folklore and intent are much more interesting but also much more frustrating as everyone’s pet ox may be THE right ox. It’s kind of like hitting a pillow and saying yours was the knockout punch.

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    • eternalidol says:

      Dan,

      I’m as big a fan of the scientific approach as anyone alive, but it’s a case of horses for courses. When I read Blake, or The Ruin or The Spoils of Annwn, for example, I immediately see a host of mesmerising, crystal-clear possibilities, but show me a protractor, a calculator, an ephemeris, a compass, a theodolite or any other kind of Infernal Engine and I will immediately lapse into an embarrassed, uncomprehending and extremely lengthy silence. All the same, I was very interested by what you had to say in your sample, so as I said, I look forward to reading more.

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