The 25th Century BC: Stonehenge vs The Great Pyramid of Geeza  

4 04 2020

When people think of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, they will almost certainly consider the pyramids of Geeza and Stonehenge. However, a surprising fact about two of the world’s most heralded monuments is that they were built in the same century- and are perhaps the two most significant features of their century from today’s perspective. These seemingly immortal monuments possess a similarly mesmeric quality – gained through their sheer antiquity and the mystery surrounding their construction. Given their temporal bond I thought I would compare and contrast the two great monuments, Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Geeza: their size, their construction, the civilizations which constructed them and the myths that have followed them to this day.

Stonehenge and the Pyrimids

Is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid?

Size
If this were a competition, then the great pyramid would win this round- it quite literally would tower over our beloved stone circle. Stonehenge’s largest stones, the Sarsens stones, boast a height up to 9m and an individual weight of up to 35 tonnes. On the other hand, the Great Pyramid of Geeza stands at 146.7m, with a length of 230.34m- the whole mass weighing in at an estimated 6.5 million tonnes. Stonehenge comes in at an estimated 680 tonnes. The sheer scale of the pyramid is truly astonishing.

Construction
But is the construction of Stonehenge far more interesting than the Great Pyramid? Again, if this were a competition this round might end in a draw. Of course, the scale of the pyramid is more impressive, but the two monuments share a similar sense of mystery when it comes to their construction. With both, there are very few facts surrounding construction – we deal mainly in inferences and theories. A key theory about the construction of the pyramid is the theory that great ramps were constructed linking the pyramids to quarries and allowing the workmen to reach such a great height without the advent of the crane.

One of the greatest discoveries surrounding the construction of Stonehenge was the location of a quarry in Preseli hills, Pembrokeshire, south wales where the smaller Blue stones were sourced – 140 miles away from the site of Stonehenge! Theories of how the stones were transported are multifarious (and the myths are even more wide ranging). However, a popular theory chimes with the construction of the pyramids as some have suggested a continuous proto-rail system was constructed between the sites to push the stones along.

Alas, the pyramid might score more points on the transportation of materials – there is a suggestion that some stones from the King’s Chamber in the The Great Pyramid were brought from 500 miles away.

Civilisations
The scale of the Great Pyramid in comparison to Stonehenge is easily explained in reference to the two different civilisations that built them. Whilst most of Europe in this period was literally stuck in the stone age – Britain lagged particularly behind and was mostly inhabited by relatively primitive farming peoples. In comparison, the civilisation of Egypt was the greatest civilisation on Earth at this point and one of the greatest civilisations in the history of our planet. They had far more advanced construction techniques, paper and writing on which to plan, complex irrigation systems, artwork… the list goes on. I would argue that the relative primitiveness of the society which constructed Stonehenge makes It more impressive.

Myths
The mystery which inexorably links these two monuments will always spawn the most fascinating mythology. Out of the possibly thousands of myths about the monuments I will pick my favourite about the construction of each. Egypt had its own mythology, but modern-day thinkers have added to that treasure trove with their own theories about the pyramids. A popular myth is that the pyramids were constructed by either a lost civilisation with advance technology or perhaps even aliens (as reported in the Daily Express). As for Stonehenge, it has long been claimed that it was magically constructed by Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend.

Whichever you think is the ‘best’- there can be no doubt that these two great monuments of the 25th Century BC share an extraordinary history of intrigue.

Relevant Links:
From the pyramids to Stonehenge – were prehistoric people astronomers? ZME SCIENCE
To understand the pyramids and Stonehenge, look up – not down – THE GUARDIAN
Egypt SHOCK: Aliens BUILT the pyramids claims INTERGALACTIC medium – THE EXPRESS
The Lore and Lure of Ley Lines –LIVE SCIENCE
The pyramids, the Minoans, Stonehenge: 6 of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history – THE MIRROR

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Were there ever any sacrifices at Stonehenge?

2 03 2017

The mythology of Stonehenge is deeply tied to the Druids.

Stonehenge sacrifice

The Slaughtering Stone

This is because some historians in the 17th century felt that the monument represented a temple and that it had been built by a pre-Roman society. As the only pre-Roman society that they knew of was the Ancient Britons and because the Romans had spoken of a priesthood called the Druids, it was obvious to them that Stonehenge was a Druid Temple.

This turned out to be the wrong conclusion, but the idea stuck.

druids_inciting_the_britons_to_oppose_the_landing_of_the_romansOne thing that everyone thinks they know about Druids is that they performed human sacrifice – that information comes to us from Julius Caesar in his accounts of the Gallic Wars of 58BC to 50BC, but he may have been exaggerating the ferocity of the Gaulish tribes to increase the prestige of his victories.

The famous imagery of a Wicker Man stuffed with prisoners and set alight comes from these writings.

Certainly the Druids were a problem for the Romans, being the closest thing to a centraldruid-human-sacrifice authority held in respect by the many tribes and with the notable ability to raise opposition to the invading armies.

Other classical writers wrote that the Vates (part of the priestly class) used to slice open the guts of a victim and read auguries of the future from the twitching entrails on the ground, while a Druid presided over the ceremony.

By the 19th century one recumbent stone at Stonehenge had acquired the name “The Slaughtering Stone” because the hollows on its upper surface fill with rainwater that turns red – supposedly from the blood of the victims sacrificed upon it, but in fact due to iron in the stone and particular algae on it.

human_sacrifice_druidAs with so many other myths, this bloodthirsty idea has stuck.

So far so gruesome, but when it comes to Stonehenge is there actually any evidence of sacrifice being carried out there?
We have records of four bodies having been found within the area enclosed by the henge bank and ditch earthwork.

Of these burials, two are missing entirely: the one found in the centre of the stone circle is long lost and the whereabouts of the partial burial from the henge ditch on the eastern side is also unknown (the excavator believed it not to be ancient).

The other two are more interesting – one was found close by the southeastern side of the monument just outside the stone circle in 1923 and the other was found in the ditch to the west of the main entrance in 1978.

The southeasterly burial was that of a man who had been decapitated from behind with a sharp bladed instrument, probably a sword – the evidence is in the cut marks through his 4th cervical vertebra and below his jaw – and then unceremoniously stuffed into a grave hole not quite big enough for the body. This is certainly an execution but it dates to between 600AD and 690AD, the Anglo-Saxon period.

The final burial is very interesting. When discovered, the body was in a neatly prepared grave (rather than a hurriedly scraped hole) and accompanied by what appeared to be grave goods – a stone “bracer” or wrist guard to prevent his bow-string hitting his wrist, and several flint arrowheads. The young man buried in the grave was dubbed “The Stonehenge Archer”.

On closer inspection it became clear that the tips of these arrowheads were embedded in the bones of the body, so he was the Stonehenge ArchEE, not the ArchER. He had been shot in the back, at least three times from different directions, and the coup de grace had been delivered when he was face down on the ground – the final arrow pierced his body and ended up in the back of his breastbone. The victim was killed between 2400BC – 2140BC.

800px-stonehenge_archer_-_salisbury_and_south_wiltshire_museum

Does the care taken in preparing his grave, coupled with the prestigious position of it next to the entrance, mean that he was a ceremonial sacrifice?

Perhaps.

For now, this remains the only clear evidence of a violent death at Stonehenge during the time when the monument was almost certainly in active use.

The Stonehenge Archer’s remains are now on display at Salisbury Museum.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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