Debunking Stonehenge Myths as Origins of Megaliths Discovered

portable x-rays used to identify original location of stonehenge boulders

By Jonny Lupsha, News Writer

Researchers have determined the origin of most of Stonehenge’s boulders, Science Alert reported. Using portable X-rays, they analyzed the composition of the enormous stones and discovered they came from West Woods, 16 miles from the site. Many myths persist about Stonehenge and the druids.

Stone Henge with sunset
The design of Stonehenge seems to intentionally correspond to astronomical events of solstices, moon cycles, eclipses, and so on. Photo By Pajor Pawel / Shutterstock

According to Science Alert, one of the big questions about Stonehenge may finally have an answer. “A study […] found that most of the giant stones—known as sarsens—seem to share a common origin 25 kilometers (16 miles) away in West Woods, an area that teemed with prehistoric activity,” the article said.

“The finding boosts the theory that the megaliths were brought to Stonehenge around the same time: around 2500 BCE, the monument’s second phase of construction, which in turn could be a sign its builders were from a highly organized society. It also contradicts a previous suggestion that one large sarsen, the Heel Stone, came from the immediate vicinity of the site and was erected before the others.”

There are many suggestions about Stonehenge that have been contradicted, apart from the origin of the Heel Stone.

Dispelling Legends of Druids

Over the years, the world has come to adopt an image of the Druids as a sort of hybrid of priests and astronomers dressed in white robes with long, white beards, using impossibly advanced astronomy to study the universe. Unfortunately, this is largely untrue.

“The neo-Druids first appeared in the 20th century, gathering at Stonehenge since the 1960s, but these groups have no connection to the original Iron Age Druids,” said Dr. Bradley E. Schaefer, Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University. “Even original Druids appeared much, much later than Stonehenge itself.”

According to Dr. Schaefer, the original Druids were “the intelligentsia and spiritual leaders” to the Celtic peoples of western Europe, but the Celts didn’t arrive in the British Isles until 500 BCE, which is 2,000 years after Stonehenge was constructed and 1,100 years after it was abandoned, meaning the Druids weren’t involved in the design or construction of Stonehenge.

Moonrise Daydream

Dr. Schaefer said that one popular author claimed that Stonehenge was used for navigating moonrise alignments. This author proposed that the long side of the rectangle formed by the four Station Stones “points at the extreme southernmost moonrise,” which is called a lunastice or lunar standstill.

“The concept of an extreme moonrise position, or lunar standstill, is entirely a modern invention, first concocted in the year 1912 by British vice admiral Boyle Somerville,” he said. “No culture at any time before 1912, and anywhere, has any knowledge or interest in the idea of extreme moonrise positions.

“The utter absence of lunar standstills or extreme moonrise in books and other records of ancient astronomy is in very stark contrast to the omnipresent and universal recognition of the solar standstills.”

Dr. Schaefer said that the “utter absence” of lunar standstills is a strong indicator that no ancient peoples knew of the concept. Furthermore, he said that the claim for the lunastice orientation of Stonehenge is simply that the stones point towards interesting directions around the horizon, and that stands as proof that the builders designed them intentionally.

There are many myths and mysteries surrounding Stonehenge, but the origin of the megaliths has finally been laid to rest.

This article was proofread and copyedited by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.

Dr. Bradley E. Schaefer contributed to this article. Dr. Schaefer is Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University (LSU). He earned his undergraduate and PhD degrees in Physics, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

About Jonny Lupsha, News Writer 563 Articles
Jonny is a freelance writer and novelist who lives in Sterling, Virginia. He has written for The Great Courses since 2017 and enjoys studying the courses as much as writing about them. Contact Jonny at lupshaj@teachco.com