CHAPTER 1

WHAT IS A CURSUS?

A cursus does not occur in nature. It was made by intelligent beings. Here's what part of one looks like from above. This one is about 16 miles (27 km) south of Stonehenge in the county of Dorset in England:

What we are looking at is about two miles long, but this is only a third of it. It runs for six miles, and changes direction for the last two and three-quarter miles--apparently a separate cursus starting from the east end of the first. The lines are about 270 feet apart. The chalk underlay was dug from the ditch and thrown up to make an embankment next to it, 12 - 15 feet high. The effect of this seen from a distance would be very striking, two huge white parallel lines, with the bush or scrub cleared for the 270 feet between them, stretching to the horizon if you were on the ground. The illustration is the size it would look from about 13,000 feet in the air. That's about 2 1/2 miles up from the ground. It's been calculated that about 6.5 million cubic feet of material was moved, and that it involved about 9 million man hours of work. This cursus is about 4,500 years old. It's called a cursus after the Roman (Latin) word for racetrack but it doesn't look like a racetrack.

Fifty years ago people thought that in 2,500 BCE (before Christian era) the inhabitants of Britain were stone age people with flints for scrapers, hunting with spears, living in caves or huts and probably wearing animal skins for clothes. Today we know that there were farmers in the Neolithic or New Stone Age, with a full range of domesticated farm animals and crops, although they still used flint and mined for it. But we are missing something here. Farmers and miners are much too busy to devote 9 million man hours to digging for a cursus 6 miles long. Where are the giant earthworks, high rise buildings, airfields, freeways or supertankers built by farmers or miners today? There aren't any. And there's no evidence they've been involved in major construction during the last five thousand years.

A scholar who studied the two Dorset cursuses in detail concluded: "It is clear that their function must have been religious or ceremonial...." There's no evidence for this. It's just an assumption that's part of our present mind-set about the prehistoric era. Another study sees the Dorset cursus as having a line for sunset and moonrise sightings in 2,500 BCE. Using a mathematical formula the study concluded that the chances of the alignment results being accidental is about 6%. It is remarkable that such astronomical and mathematical expertise is necessary today to understand the astronomical knowledge of 4,500 years ago.

We are dealing here with a period of prehistory. There are no remains of written documents such as Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, Homer's early Greek writing, or the Bible, to help us. All we have are archaeological remains. We would probably never know that England was conquered by William of Normandy in 1066 AD (which changed the course of English history for a thousand years) if all we had were archaeological remains, and didn't have the written records to prove it.

So let's see if we can reason our way logically through the few facts we do have, and try to find out what was going on about 4,500 to 5,000 years ago.



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