Orkney Islands: Capital of Hyperborea

 

The Orkney Islands belong to a Scottish archipelago uniquely rich in Neolithic sites. The “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” is a group of megalithic monuments on Mainland Island consisting of Maeshowe, a chambered cairn, the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar (both henge-type monuments), and Skara Brae, one of the best preserved Neolithic villages.

The Ring of Brodgar is among the northernmost examples of henges in Britain, comparable with Avebury and Stonehenge among the greatest.

Additionally, a recent archaeological site called Ness of Brodgar has been excavated between the Rings of Brodgar and Stenness, and it has provided evidence of housing, decorated stone slabs, a massive stone wall with foundations, and a large building dubbed as “the cathedral.”

The high concentration of Neolithic sites at this location of this northern island is quite remarkable. The people who built the huge chamber of Maes Howe and lived in the houses like those of Skara Brae (they even had sewers in the 3rd millennium BC), surrounded by such extraordinary ritual landscape, were coetaneous with those who built Avebury, Carnac, the early phase of Stonehenge, and Newgrange (described in a coming post).

This coincidence in time, and the geodesic fact that Orkney is the northernmost land on the same meridian than Carnac (ca. 3.2º W), may suggest a connection among these megalithic complexes.

The hypothesis of MacKie proposing the existence of a theocratic élite with capacity of movement over large territories in Neolithic Britain, radiating from Orkney in the north, would fit within a scheme in which these islands were chosen by the Megalith Builders to build the headquarters of their priests.

But, why would they build it in such remote northern archipelago? Find the answer in the book.

 

Orkney Islands: Capital of Hyperborea

Stonehenge: The Celestial Mirror

The most famous megalithic monument in the world is, unarguably, Stonehenge. Its construction began in the early 3rd millennium BC as a large henge (110 m of diameter) built on the southern plains of England.

By the 24th century BC, it also had –among other features– a tall bank along the inner side of the ditch, a concentric ring of thirty standing stones with as many horizontal above (Sarsen Circle), and five huge trilithons arranged inside in the shape of a horseshoe.

Later, another ring and horseshoe of stones called Bluestones were also erected  inside the Sarsen Circle. About its center there was a unique stone known as Altar Stone.

The transit of the Sun at midsummer over the star Regulus, which took place around the 24th century BC, had to be an astronomic event of capital importance for a solar culture. This moment would be anticipated and signaled as the propitious occasion to reform the ceremony of monarchical renewal, outdated by the precession of the equinoxes.

The solution to their problem could be very simple yet revolutionary: to move the ceremony from summer to winter.

The inadequacy of Avebury’s design to accommodate the necessary shift from a static to a dynamic scenario, reflection of the sky, would be the insurmountable motive behind its abandonment.

The entrance of Stonehenge would be, therefore, designed to be oriented towards the rising of Regulus during midwinter, and not, as popularly believed, towards the midsummer sunrise.

The Bluestones placed inside the Sarsen Circle of Stonehenge were collected in Wales, concretely in Preseli Hills, more than 200 km away from Stonehenge, a fact that has puzzled archaeologists, but to which we can now give a compelling reason based on the sky of that epoch.

The kings and princes would gather for the monarchical renewal ceremony in Avebury –later Stonehenge– arriving from different directions, the princes would do it from the east, navigating on the Thames and Kennet Rivers, whereas the kings would arrive from the west, along the Bristol-Avon River.

The people gathered for the monarchical renewal ceremony would live mostly in provisional shelters dismantled at the conclusion, and near to a good source of water. The locations of the living quarters at Avebury have been already suggested for the different participants in the previous installment. In Stonehenge, these quarters could have been at Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, large henge-type structures built by the Salisbury-Avon River. This river was connected to Stonehenge by an avenue of about 3 km in length, which would be for the exclusive use of kings, princes, princesses and priests.

At Stonehenge, the ceremony had to begin exactly at sunset, when the kings (rising Regulus), walking along the avenue, reached the entrance, illuminated by the last solar rays filtered through the stones. The regicides would happen when Leo culminated and reflected inside the Sarsen Circle.

The crowing ceremony would start when Corona Borealis reached the zenith, and it would finish with the following sunrise, some minutes later, when the princes would be declared as new kings.

Once the ceremony was over, the kings would navigate southwards on the Salisbury-Avon River, into the English Channel and from there to Carnac in Brittany to erect the stones in memory of their fathers, the late kings.

Stonehenge: The Celestial Mirror