I was fascinated to learn that, according to Professor Mathieu Ossendrijver from the Humboldt University of Berlin, ancient Babylonian astronomers were using sophisticated geometric techniques to track the path of the planet Jupiter across the sky, 1,400 years before this method was developed by scholars in Oxford and Paris.
The details of this revelation were intriguing, even for someone such as myself who struggles badly with the disciplines of mathematics and astronomy. Immediately after I’d read what Prof Ossendrijver had to say about how these Babylonian astronomer priests had used a trapezoid to make their calculations, my mind wandered to Stonehenge, a monument virtually synonymous with ancient stargazing as far as the late Professor John North and numerous learned others are concerned.
Clearly, the Slaughter Stone is not shaped like a trapezoid because of its round base, but when it was upright, the level ground surface at its base would have produced a close approximation of this shape, while the same principle applies to Bluestone 49, below.
And Stone 11, although there may well be others.
I may be experiencing some form of geometric pareidolia, but the four stones depicted above seem to me to be trapezoid in shape when viewed from one or more angles, with the ground surface as the straight base. Does this mean that the builders of Stonehenge used these forms as part of some sophisticated means of observing the heavens, as the Babylonian priests did some two thousand years later? I do not know, but as there exists so much detailed and compelling material suggesting that Stonehenge was used at least in part as an observatory of celestial bodies, I wouldn’t rule out the idea.
Then we come to the [supposedly later] Druids, who were unquestionably present at Stonehenge, although I cannot state precisely what they did there. Each time I have cause to touch on this subject, it feels like Groundhog Day, so for now, I’ll confine myself to saying that Caesar recorded in his De Bello Gallico the belief that the Druid cult originated in Britain and that its adherents held “…many discussions touching the stars and their movement, the size of the universe and of the earth, the order of nature, the strength and power of the immortal gods…” so in this respect, they seem virtually indistinguishable from their Babylonian counterparts who devoted such efforts to tracking the movement of Jupiter, or Marduk, across the sky.
Whether or not the trapezoid-shaped stones at Stonehenge played any part in the studies the Druids undertook, I cannot say, but it seems at least worth noting that such stones existed in a setting for which there is abundant evidence that it was used for the purposes of astronomy and/or astrology by prehistoric watchers of the skies.
My grateful thanks once more to Juris Ozols for the photographs of the stones at Stonehenge.