A new discovery about Stonehenge sheds a whole new light on the purpose of the mysterious, 5,000-year-old megalith — literally. While archaeologists have long been certain the ancient monument was created as a religious altar for worship of the summer sun, the new discovery shows that the winter sun was just as important to the long-lost civilization that built the strange structure.
The discovery relates to the tallest stone in the semi-circular structure, a stone that most researchers have long assumed was aligned incorrectly, because while the rest of the massive stones that make up Stonehenge align with the sun at the summer solstice, that particular stone does not.
But according to researcher Tim Daw, who is also a groundskeeper at the ancient site, just because the stone does not align with the mid-summer sun doesn’t mean it isn’t in the right place.
By 1901, the stone had mostly fallen. At the time, it was raised back to what was believed to be its original position. But the stone did not line up with the summer solstice, so Stonehenge experts simply assumed the 1901 restoration job was carried out poorly — and the stone was in the wrong place.
But Daw’s findings say that the stone was in the right place all along. The 1901 restoration workers did not make a mistake. In fact, the stone lined up not with the summer solstice, but the winter solstice — as did five other stones around it, which have long since fallen and were never restored.
“My research shows that not only was the standing stone out of symmetry with the central solstice alignment originally, but that its now fallen partner had also been, and so were surrounding stones, including the Altar Stone,” Daw said.
“The stones point to the midwinter solstice sunrise and midsummer sunset. This alignment had been missed by previous investigators,” Daw said. “This isn’t some nebulous sighting line on a distant star. This is 100 tons of stone deliberately pointing to the major event at the other end of the day the rest of the monument celebrates. One stone out of line might be a coincidence but that it is five of the major stones, at least, shows it was a designed feature.”
Daw is the same researcher who made headlines last year when he discovered, largely by accident, impressions in the ground that proved Stonehenge was originally a full circle, not just a semicircle. But what happened to the rest of the stones remains one of the many mysteries of Stonehenge.
[Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]