WHAT ANCIENT WRITERS TELL US
We may have a clue from Diodorus Siculus. He was a Greek living in
Sicily who wrote a history in 40 books. He was alive about 30 BCE which
means he was further away in time from the builders of the Cursus than
we are from him. But he says he is quoting Hecateus, a classical Greek
historical writer who lived in the 300s BCE and this is what Hecateus said:
Leto (Apollo's mother) was born in Hyberborea (Britain).
Therefore Apollo was honoured there above all the Gods and
there are men who serve as priests of Apollo. There is also a
precinct sacred to Apollo and suitably imposing and a
notable temple decorated with many offerings and looking
like a globe.....It is said the god returns to the island every 19
years, the period when the stones complete their cycle.
Now here we may have some information to work with. Although Diodorus is
often an unreliable teller of tales, there may be a kernel of truth in what he
says. We now know that Stonehenge was so constructed from the
earliest of its several phases as to show the midsummer and midwinter
sunrise solstice (nearest and furthest point of the sunrise in the year) by
sightings along certain major stones.
As you can see it still works very well at a sunrise solstice today.
Stonehenge also apparently had a circular series of holes, probably for
wooden posts which marked the most northerly position of the moon at
different winter solstices, a position which changes slowly over a
cycle of 18.61 years. We're told these were installed during the first stage
of Stonehenge, about 2,750 BCE. So here we have an
astronomical explanation for the 19 year period.
A replica of Stonehenge was built in Maryland, USA, but of course it has no
astronomical alignments because the Stonehenge co-ordinates would only
work at the exact location of Stonehenge.
We also know that Apollo was referred to as a Sun god. Hecateus
seemed to have heard that the temple was like a globe. Presumably
Stonehenge must have had a half globe above the uprights. If so this would
have been very similar to the shape of a present day astronomical
observatory. A precinct, referred to by Hecateus, is a subdivision or district,
which we've already drawn attention to, as groupings of the round barrows look rather like those of modern housing developments.. And we now have an astronomical
explanation that fits his enigmatic phrase about the stones completing their
cycle in 19 years.
There's more to it than this. The 19 year cycle is a good working
arrangement, but far greater
accuracy is obtained using a 56 year cycle. How many 'Aubrey holes' have
been found in a circle at Stonehenge? Fifty six. To put this in perspective we
should remember that ancient Egyptian mummies or remains of average
ancient Egyptian citizens are said now to have had an average life span of
38 years. The builders of the remarkable
prehistoric dwellings at Maes Howe on Mainland, Orkneys, are now said to
have been little more than teenagers, as their life span was very short. This
means that a 56 year cycle was probably well beyond the average life span
of priests and other humans when Stonehenge was being built and used.