A new study claims our Neolithic ancestors employed a sophisticated knowledge of geometry to build Stonehenge that rivalled that of Pythagoras, 2,000 years before the eminent Greek was born. After five years of detailed research, respected landscape archaeologist Anthony Johnson believes the world famous Wiltshire landmark was designed and built using advanced geometry.The theory of the Oxford University expert has major implications for understanding the 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site and the mysterious people who built it.Attempting to answer probably the greatest question of British archaeology, many experts have proclaimed Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory.However, Mr Johnson suggests the creation of the enigmatic pattern of stones on Salisbury Plain was firmly rooted in the study of geometry rather than early astronomy.The knowledge of geometry and symmetry was an important part of wider European religious belief, spurring the designers to create a masterpiece highlighting their expertise.He said the complex was designed, pre-fabricated and erected as a result of methods used to construct much simpler monuments during the preceding hundreds of years.Mr Johnson said the great stones were shaped off-site before being installed by surveyor-engineers. He also argues this knowledge was regarded among prehistoric tribes as a form of arcane wisdom or magic that conferred a privileged status on the elite who possessed it.The most complex geometrical achievement at Stonehenge is an 87-metre diameter circle of chalk- cut pits which mark the points of a 56-sided polygon, created immediately within the monument's perimeter earthwork.Mr Johnson used computer analysis and experimental archaeology to demonstrate that this outer polygon was laid out using square and circle geometry.The latter involved nothing more complex than experimenting with the aid of two men, a few wooden stakes and a piece of rope.He believes the surveyors started by using a rope to create a circle, then laid out the four corners of a square on its circumference, before laying out a second similar square, thus creating an inner octagon.The points of the octagon were then utilised as anchors for a surveyor's rope which was used to draw arcs which intersected the circumference so as to progressively create the sides of a vast polygon.He said he had demonstrated that a 56-sided polygon was the most complex that could easily be created purely through square and circle geometry using a single piece of rope.Mr Johnson, whose theories are outlined in a new book Solving Stonehenge, said: "For years people have speculated that Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory."My research suggests that, apart from mid-summer and mid- winter solar alignments, this was not the case."It strongly suggests that it was the knowledge of geometry and symmetry which was an important component of the Neolithic belief system."It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2,000 years before Pythagoras.
"Source: Western Daily Press.
Note: Ronald Hutton reviews this book in the TLS, plus an extract from Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill, see the latest comments