A possible new solstitial sightline in the Stonehenge landscape

Just beyond the northern edge of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site lies the garrison town of Larkhill. Here in 2016, in advance of a new housing development, archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology discovered a line of six postholes passing through one of the entrances of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure. The enclosure, whose existence was previously unknown, dates to around 3700 BC but the timber posts that stood in these holes were not erected until over a millennium later, around the time that the large sarsen circle was being built at Stonehenge.

An archaeoastronomical investigation showed that the last three posts in the line (which is slightly curved) faced directly out towards June solstice sunrise behind Sidbury Hill, which is prominent on the skyline. We believe this solstitial alignment to have been intentional and meaningful. It dates to a time (mid-3rd millennium BC) when a practice had developed across this landscape of aligning monuments accurately with solstitial sunrise or sunset. We see this not only at Stonehenge but also at Woodhenge and Durrington Walls.

It is even possible that this modest feature represented the “monumentalisation” of a broadly solstitial alignment of natural features (large natural sinkholes, leading away down a dry valley to the River Avon) which had already been seen as signficant for many centuries. (A similar thing has been suggested at Stonehenge itself.)

To read more, see the published paper in the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology.

Left: general map, showing the area of the Stonehenge WHS shaded in light purple. Right: the Lark Hill causewayed enclosure (its position is approximate except for the excavated part to the NE of the red line). The dark purple areas are large natural sinkholes running down the dry valley. Top: plan of the alignment itself. The rectangles in the lower plans indicate the positions of the larger-scale plans. © Wessex Archaeology.


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