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22. The Mystery of Stone G at Stonehenge

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

The greater Stonehenge landscape is at risk from a new road. It's incredible that more damage to the area should be done just months after it was revealed that the Stonehenge landscape is, unsurprisingly, full of treasures. It's not just the famous megaliths that matter. You can help save Stonehenge from further damage by a new road by contributing to the legal fees of the group challenging the decision to build it. Click here. According to The Heritage Journal, within 24 hours of the launch of a Stonehenge defence fund, 860 people had contributed £22,880 and the total is set to exceed the first target sum of £25,000 at an astonishing speed.

Stonehenge and the old road that used to run by it. Wikimedia Commons

This brings me to an article I found this week called "The Mystery of Stone G" by Douglas Emmott, science correspondent to the The Yorkshire Post, on Saturday March 16th 1963. This is thanks to Stonehenge blogger Simon, see here. The post, entitled "C.A. "Peter" Newham and the Station Stone Rectangle", refers to a book published in 1972 called called The Astronomical Significance of Stonehenge, which the article anticipates with a discussion of one of its central theories.

An amateur astronomer, Mr. Peter Newham, 63, of Tadcaster, has formulated an intriguing hypothesis which, if proven, might open up whole new fields of inquiry in a subject which has yielded very little significant new information since the last major excavation nearly 40 years ago.
If Mr. Newham's line of reasoning is sound, the positions of certain hitherto inexplicable features of Stonehenge would be explained.

Two pages from The Astronomical Significance of Stonehenge by Peter Newham

The theory concerns the Station Stones, numbers 91, 92, 93 and 94, that make up the famous rectangle, and the rising and setting positions of the sun and the moon at certain significant times. In fact, two of the stones are missing. It is possibly one of the main reasons Stonehenge is situated where it is because it is a this latitude that certain sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset angles form lines that meet at right angles and this create a rectangle. So what has this to do with stone G?

Firstly, the sun's connection to the stones is discussed:

In 1846, the Rev. E. Duke discovered that the North mound 94 lined up with a stone numbered 93 at the last light of the setting sun on the shortest day of the year. Conversely, a line drawn from the South mount (92) to stone 91 aligned with the rising sun on the longest day of the year.

Saturn, Wikimedia Commons

Edward Duke wrote a short book called The Age of Stonehenge available to read here, in which he argues that Stonehenge must be pre-Roman. Of course, that seems quite obvious to us. At the time though, Inigo Jones's theory was in vogue, that Stonehenge was a Roman temple dedicated to the god Coelus or Coelum, though Stukeley had debunked it.

However, it is to his much longer Druidical Temples of the County of Wilts. that the article refers, in which he discusses "the early inhabitants of Wiltshire", who "had pourtrayed a vast planetarium or stationary orrery on the face of the Wiltshire downs, the earth being represented by Silbury Hill, and the sun and planets, revolving round it, by seven ‘temples,’ four of stone and three of earth, placed at their proper distances".

It is a fascinating book, in which Stonehenge is described as "the conjoint temple of Saturn".

The temple at Stonehenge consists of two circles and two ovals, or rather ellipses, respectively concentric ; we must then enter at once on the description of the outer circle. Here is much indeed to rivet the reader’s atten- tion, since I hesitate not to say, that this outer circle of Stonehenge is by far the most interesting and pre- cious morceau of any Druidical remains in the uni- verse. Of all the planets Saturn describes the most extreme orbit, and takes the protracted period of thirty years to revolve around his distant course, hence his orbit has ever mythologically been held to include all time and space. The stones of the outer circle of Stonehenge, which I must consider as a portion of the more modern and enlarged temple of Saturn, are 30 in number ; this points out clearly its designation as the cycle of the years of Saturn, and it may be considered allegorically to point out the years of the life of man.

I had hoped that he meant a life as 4 such cycles, or at the very least, 3. Actually, a little later in the paragraph, he says that 60 years is about right before you are "ripe for the scythe of time."(!)

The number 30 is of course also associated with the number of days in a month:

the Druids having divided the year into 12 months of 30 days each : The stones are represented as equidistant from each other; and consequently there were 30 intervening voids or interstices ;

Ground-plan of Stonehenge as it probably was. (Stevens.) William Boyd Dawkins -, Wikimedia Commons. You can see what the 30 stones of the larger circle might originally have looked like.

Of the inner circle, the author writes:

I must now move on, and proceed to the explanation of the inward or second circle. This then consists of 40 stones ; here have we no astronomical cycle, but we have a numerical cycle, we have the sacred and ever-recurring mystic Four, ten times repeated. This circle then, I cannot recognise as any portion of the enlarged temple of Saturn, but it must have been the outer or prophy- lactic circle of the original temple of the Sun, located on that spot from a still earlier period, and coeval with the original temples of the Sun and the Moon at Abury. This circle is involved within the outer one, but strictly cannot be said to be concentric, since to the north-east it approaches nearer to the outer circle than it does to the south-west, and therefore it is manifest that the two circles were struck from different centres ; the reason of which, on a personal and critical examination of the temple, appears to be, thus judiciously to fill up the greater void to the south-west, caused by the yet more inward portion of the temple being protruded to the north-east. It is remarkable that this deviation from the concentricity of the two circles is not made to appear in the ichnographical plan of any writer on Stonehenge.

The gnomon is the triangular blade in this sundial., Wikimedia Commons

What might the reason be for the two circles having been struck from different centres? The author goes on to say:

Smith, in describing these stones, makes these remarks : "that a line drawn from the one to the other passes through the centre of the two concentric circles of the temple.” One of these stones he points out as an astronomical gnomon, but he fails to notice the circu- lar depressions in the ground. Sir R. C. Hoare thus notices these stones and circular hollows: There are two small stones within the vallum and adjoining it, whose uses never have been satisfactorily defined. The one on the south side is nine feet high, and has fallen from its base backwards on the vallum; the other on the north-west, is not quite four feet high, both rude and unhewn. There are also two small tumuli ditched round, so as to resemble excavations, adjoining the agger ; they are very slightly elevated above the surface, and deserve particular attention, as they may give rise to some curious and not improbable conjectures. On minute investiga- tion you will see that the vallum of the agger, surrounding the work, has been evidently curtailed by forming the tumulus on the north-west side of the circle, which induced us to open it, when, much to our surprise, we found within it a simple interment of burned bones ; from hence we may fairly infer, that this sepulchral barrow existed on the plain, I will not say before the erection of Stonehenge, but probably before the ditch was thrown up, and I scarcely know how we can sepa- rate one from the other. It now remains for me, satisfactorily, as I hope, to account for the presence of these two stones, and the correspondent excavations of the ground at these oppo- site angles, and this I shall do by the test of actual ex- perience. The stones then, were astronomic gnomons, the circular hollows were the astronomic stations, from whence the observer turned those gnomons to practical use. To lay out the geometrical plan of the temple, and to obtain the site of these astronomic gnomons and stations, this early and scientific race of man thus pro- ceeded. Having already erected the main gnomon, which guided the position of the temple (of Saturn) , and having located the correspondent stone of astronomic observation, (which I must premise, although within the circumference of the intended temple, yet bore no refe- rence to its precise geometrical centre), they then, on the right line drawn from the rising point of the Sun, measured off (as I said before) 60 cubits or 100 feet, and thus arrived at the circumferential line of the in- tended fosse ; they again measured off GO other cubits, and thus reached the outer circle of the temple ; 60 cubits more lined out the diameter of the temple, and by another 60 cubits they arrived at the opposite cir- cumferential point of the fosse. These four points, on the right line from the point of the rising sun, we must believe that they noted with precise demarcations. Each of these 60 cubits was formed of the mystic four fifteen times repeated. Across those lines which marked the opposite sides of the circumference of the temple, they then drew at right angles with the main line already described, two other right lines, until they reached the opposite sides of the intended fosse.

A cloudy sunset in November Jeffrey Pfau

And he goes on to describe "these stations and gnomons; which are all situate just within the verge of the surrounding fosse", the centre of which you would need to stand in to align the stones with your eye and the sun:

The astronomer here taking his station in the centre at the summer solstice, and turning to the north-east, would see that majestic luminary in all his splendour mounting in the horizon, and making his first appearance over the gnomon, which is situate east-north-east from the centrical point of the temple. This stone is placed 60 cubits or 100 feet (the diameter of the temple), from the correspondent station. It is now lying prostrate on the vallum, and, when erect, it i stood about nine feet in height. As this station and gnomon were of course located on the same line with the main gnomon and station before adverted to, my readers may wish to know the cause of the differential height of these gnomons, the one being 16 feet, the other only 9 feet in height. The obvious cause is this, the first gnomon is situate about 200 feet farther in advance to the north-east, and stands with regard to its correspondent station on a considerable declivity. This plainly tells the fact, that these differing heights of the two gnomons is for the purpose of accommodating the eye of the astronomic observer directed to the horizon over its apex. They suit the eye of the man of ordinary stature, as is proved by this fact, that — they suit my own eye. We must now cross over to the north-western side of the temple, and to the west-north-west of its centre may be observed the other astronomic station. This is simi- lar to the one before described, with the exception, that it has a somewhat lesser diameter, and that the circle of the vallum is slightly intersected by the vallum of the fosse coming into contact with it. This decidedly proves, that these stones and gnomons were located on the surface of the plain, before the circumjacent fosse and vallum were constructed, and that they were adjuncts of the previously formed temple of the Sun.

Diagram featured in the article "The Mystery of Stone G" by Douglas Emmott. You can see the place marked "G" just between F, at the top, and 91. G2 is on the Aubrey Circle.

Now to Mr Newham and the moon, and the reason why the two circles at Stonehenge are not quite concentric. The article mentioned above states:

The moon, Wikimedia Commons
The first remarkable discovery he made was that a line drawn from mound 94 to 91 would appear to coincide with the point on the horizon where the moon rises at its most southerly point during its 19-year cycle. Conversely, the line from 92 to 93 marks the moonset at its most Northerly setting point. The suggestion that these two alignments are of significance is bolstered by the curious fact that the main Sarsen circle of stones is about a yard off-centre with the outer Aubrey circle of burial holes.
Had it been quite concentric, the 92-93 sighting would have been obscured. Is this the reason for the off-centredness which has puzzled generations of archaeologists?

Depiction of the 19 years of the Metonic cycle as a wheel, with the Julian date of the Easter New Moon, from a 9th-century computistic manuscript made in St. Emmeram's Abbey (Clm 14456, fol. 71r) Wikimedia Commons

This seems like a plausible explanation. The Metonic cycle is indeed a 19 or so moon cycle: 235 synodic lunar months to be precise. It's very important in the luni-solar calendar, because 235 lunar months are almost exactly 19 years, with just a hour and a half difference.

What about this famous hole G?

From this point, attention is turned to another unusual feature. This is catalogued as "hole" G, the middle of three equally spaced "holes" lying to the East and just beyond the Aubrey circle, and for which there is no convincing explanation.

It appears to be linked to the solstice, not the summer one, but the winter solstice.

Mr. Newham has noted that a line drawn from 94 to G appears to mark the rising sun on the shortest day of the year. Mound 92 to G marks the moonrise at its most Northerly point.

The article concludes with the possible discovery of another hole which invokes a summer solstice alignment:

Thus, six of the eight major solar/lunar events of the year are apparently accounted for within the theory. To complete the octet, Mr. Newham has postulated the existence of a further marker hole in the unexcavated part of the site about 16 yards South of 93. This he has provisionally designated G2.
Now, a line drawn from 92 to G2 would mark the setting sun on the longest day, while 94 to G2 would mark the moon set on its most Southerly point. Thus, the hypothesis has the added merit of inviting confirmation. If the hypothetical G2 should, in fact, be discovered the possibility of coincidence could be virtually eliminated. The key which now seems to fit the lock would surely turn.

Thus, the four corners of the Station Stone Rectangle accommodate solstice sun and moon risings and settings. The points G1 and G2 mark summer solstice sunset, and moon set at the most southerly part of its journey.

And I add other things to prove the astronomical knowledge of this early and scientific race of mam, whom the moderns, puffed up with their own conceits, will call barbarians, but who, in the conception of this magnificent work, have exhibited the influential action of a master mind, and in its execution have amply shewn their united skill in the sciences of astronomy, geometry, and mechanics. Having thus traced the plans of these early sages in all their works and windings— having thus developed the details of their mighty doings, we finally unite the whole, and prove that collectively these several temples ranged on a meridional line, form one grand astronomical scheme, and typify the magnus annus — the cycle of the years of the world — the cycle of cycles ; — when after the certain revolution of thou- sands of years, the planets and all the heavenly bodies shall ultimately, and simultaneously, arrive at the same places from whence they originally received their first impulse of motion ; when the Ovum Mundi, the Mun- dane Egg, reposited within the womb of Time, shall, having received the daily influences of the Sun during its lengthened period of incubation, burst its cere- ments; when the new world shall spring forth into being, and amidst the tuneful harmony of the’ spheres, the eera of the revived Platonic cycle shall again begin its new and long- continued revolution !

"Puffed up with their own conceits" would be a good description of the mindset which allows further destruction to be brought upon the Stonehenge landscape. Let's hope the laywers get their money and the new road is stopped.

Many thanks to Simon and his blog post "C.A. "Peter" Newham and the Station Stone Rectangle".

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