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Age of Antiquity
Observatory or Alter to the Gods?
In 2484 BC, a great procession of men and rock crossed the Salisbury plain. Oxen hauled sacred blue stones to the entryway of a circular bank. There the men rolled the stones into the ring. Five hundred years later, descendants of those first builders posted huge boulders in the earth.
So began the building of Stonehenge, a circle of massive arches located in Salisbury, England.
The builders of Stonehenge paid close attention to the sun, moon, and stars. The construction of the archways spanned many decades. Scientists speculate that the great archways were completed centuries after the first constructors transported the stones. The construction was accomplished by locking the stones together in a tongue and groove fashion. By wedging the blocks of wood under the stone platform, the beams were then raised atop the 20-foot pillars.
A shroud of mystery has surrounded Stonehenge over the years. There are two theories explaining the purpose of its construction. Some say it was built for religious purposes, others say it was built as an astronomical observatory. The most logical explanation is a combination of both theories: Stonehenge was built as a site of rituals connected with the sun and moon.
American astronomer Gerald Hawkins found that by walking around the stones while applying mathematical formulas, one could track celestial bodies, and even predicted solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses. This laid root to the theory that the site's purpose was as an observatory.
Given England's murky weather, and other recent findings, it is accepted today that Stonehenge was the site of rituals connected with the sun and moon. The positioning of the major stones indicates the desire to track the path of the sun/moon and thus predict eclipses. Scientists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory have confirmed this finding: computer showed a remarkable correlation between the design of the Stonehenge site and those of the setting sun and moon. The chances of this being a coincidence, at the time of 1500 BC, is 1 in 100 million.
One can imagine a religion in which the sun and moon are gods - with priests able to predict their appearance and path across the sky.
The region in which Stonehenge was built was at one time of supreme religious importance. There are many prehistoric tombs and burial mounds in the area. 'Woodhenge', built before Stonehenge, was the site of human sacrifices.
Even today Stonehenge has a cult following. Modern day Druids have established so firm a conviction that they have a legitimate connection with Stonehenge that they are allowed to conduct unauthentic ancient ceremonies there at various times during the year. It is possible that Druids at one time were present when Stonehenge was built and in operation many ages ago.
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History Fact of the Month
Did you know ...
The Origin of Valentine's Day?
Valentines day dates back to Roman times, when a holiday called The Feast of Lubercus was celebrated to protect shepherds and their flocks from wolves. During this time of year, goddess Juno Februata was honored by pairing boys and girls and denoting them 'partners' for a year.
Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 497 AD, in an effort to replace pagan holidays with Christian tradition. Although the pairing ritual was banished, romance remains the distinctive attribute of this holiday.
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