The secret of Stonehenge may have just been uncovered. An international archaeological survey team recently found two previously uncovered pits at the ancient site which they believe were used for sun worship.
The team, part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, believes that the pits are positioned within the Neolithic Cursus pathway. Times of India reports that the two pits, when viewed from the “heel stone” at Stonehenge, are aligned with sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year. According to the researchers, it’s extremely unlikely that this is just a coincidence.
The BBC reports that the celestial alignment of the pits “could have formed a procession route for ancient rituals celebrating the sun moving across the sky at the midsummer solstice.” Ancient sun worshipers may have used stones, posts, or fires to mark the rising and setting sun.
Project leader at Birmingham University, Professor Vince Gaffney, said:
“Other activities were carried out at other ceremonial sites only a short distance away. The results from this new survey help us to appreciate just how complex these activities were and how intimate these societies were with the natural world. The perimeter of the Cursus may well have defined a route guiding ceremonial processions which took place on the longest day of the year.”
The archaeologists, from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna, say that the site may have been used for ancient sun worship rituals more than 5,000 years before the first Stonehenge stone was erected.
“This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape. These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important, ritual focus and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date.”
The archaeologist team has been surveying the subsurface of Stonehenge since 2010 with geophysical imaging techniques. Here’s a visualization of the University of Birmingham’s find.
Do you think Stonehenge was used to worship the sun?