Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Navigating to Stonehenge -- lessons from Ancient Woolworths stores

On the subject of ancient triangles and Neolithic navigation, this wonderful "press release" appeared in January 2010. Many thanks to Matt Parker.... and it's interesting to think that like the tribal societies of the Neolithic, Woolworths is (was) a lost civilisation, which we will be increasingly at a loss to understand, as the years roll by. Maybe their demise was partly down to the fact they their chieftains were not sufficiently attuned to Earth Energies, and that their triangles were in the wrong places, or were of the wrong size and shape?

Locations of Ancient Woolworths Stores follow Precise Geometrical Pattern
Matt Parker

5 January 2010

Matt Parker, based in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, has analysed the locations of the 800 Woolworths stores to reveal precise geometric patterns. This was based on the work of Mr Tom Brooks (a retired marketing executive of Honiton, Devon) who found similar patterns in prehistoric monuments across the UK.

Mr Brooks looked at 1500 sites and found that some of them follow geometric patterns and he concluded that they must have been part of a sophisticated navigational system. This was reported in the UK national press on 5 January 2010, with the Daily Mail reporting that the patterns were so “sophisticated and accurate” that “he does not rule out extraterrestrial help.”

Matt Parker then decided to apply this technique to another ancient and mysterious civilisation: that of the Woolworths stores.

“We know so little about the ancient Woolworth stores, but we do still know their locations” explains Matt Parker, “so I thought that if we analysed the sites we could learn more about what life was like in 2008 and how these people went about buying cheap kitchen accessories and discount CDs.”

The results revealed an exact and precise geometric placement of the Woolworths locations. Three stores around Birmingham formed an exact equilateral triangle (Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Birmingham stores) and if the base of the triangle is extended, it forms a 173.8 mile line linking the Conwy and Luton stores. Despite the 173.8 mile distance involved, the Conway Woolworths store is only 40 feet off the exact line and the Luton site is within 30 feet.  All four stores align with an accuracy of 0.05%.

The bisector of this same triangle then passes through the Monmouth, West Bromwich and Alfreton store locations with an accuracy of 0.5%. There are also grids of isosceles triangles – those with two sides of equal length – on each side of the Birmingham Woolworths Triangle. One such isosceles triangle made with Stafford only has an error of 3% and it points directly at the Northwich Woolworths store that is itself only 0.6% off being exactly isosceles.

Matt Parker concludes that “these incredibly precise geometric patterns mean that the people who founded the Woolworths Empire must have used these store locations as a form of ‘landmark satnav’ to help hunters find their  nearest source of cheap sweets that can be purchased in whatever mix they chose to pick. Well, that or the fact that in any sufficiently large set of random data it is possible to find meaningless patterns of any required accuracy.”

These patterns were found from the 800 random ex-Woolworth locations by simply skipping over the vast majority of the sites and only choosing the few that happen to line-up. Matt Parker claims he could find many more such patterns, but he had some actual real work to do. He does envy Mr Tom Brooks though, who with 1500 locations, had almost twice as much data to pull meaningless patterns from.

 “It is extremely important to look at how much data people are using to support an argument” Matt Parker warned. “For example, the case for global warming covers vast amounts of comprehensive evidence, but it is still possible for people to search through the data and find a few isolated examples that appear to show otherwise.”


Constantinos Ragazas said...

Nice post Brian,

... very funny, and very insightful! Nothing like a mathematical 'card trick' to inspire the mystical needy. Even if the 'mathematical card trick' is labeled Quantum Mechanics! The best magic is 'mathemagic'! The ancients knew this when they engaged in Numerology! Some moderns still do …


The Stonehenge Enigma said...

I agree!!

Place any three sticks at random on a surface and you can find a dozen eclipses, sunrises and settings etc - that's why the archaeologists are wrong about stone circles being about astronomical alignments.

If you want an astronomical alignment you cut two trees both with holes on the trunk or erect megaliths with small slits and a darkened arena to add effect - like Newgrange.

Although Stonehenge does have these slit markers - not only mid summer sunrise but more importantly at the time of construction the mid-winter sunrise and set.

As for random navigation at Stonehenge - if you take Sarsen stone 5 as the marker stone from the centre of Stonehenge - you will find 13 round barrows in 15km on a path past the boggy wetlands that was left after the Mesolithic flooding to your destination of Quarley Hill (another prehistoric settlement).

Each barrow is visible from the last if you stand on it - in the days of construction the barrow would have been white so even easier to follow than today (its a great days paper chase if you have children!!)

Alas most smaller barrows have been destroyed by modern day farming so there are only a handful of paths left - this is one of the few left Stonehenge.

This kind of path was first identified by Alfred Watkins in 1921, he's original work was identifying Neolithic Paths in the countryside - This is before the new age donuts turn it into impossible lay-lines covering hundreds of miles - never the less his work is still sound and worth reading.

Mathematically the odds of this barrow path existing by chance is over 3 million to 1 - So Matt Parker is right in some measure and completely wrong in others.


BRIAN JOHN said...

This might be of interest -- from the Wikipedia entry on Pseudoscientific Metrology. Whoever wrote it (I promise it wasn't me!) has no hesitation in calling all this stuff "pseudoscientific" and in having a go at Alexander Thom and Robin heath.


Alexander Thom

Oxford engineering professor Alexander Thom, doing statistical analysis of survey data taken from over 250 stone circles in England and Scotland, came to the conclusion that there must have been a common unit of measure which he called a megalithic yard. This research was published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A (General), 1955, Vol 118 Part III p275-295) as a paper entitled A Statistical Examination of the Megalithic Sites in Britain.
[edit] Robin Heath

Later, these ideas were further developed as defence for the Imperial units against the emerging metric system, and adopted by parts of the anti-metric movement. Robin Heath, in his book Sun, Moon & Stonehenge, connects the megalithic yard (and thus Stonehenge) to the imperial foot, and manages to connect a few astronomical phenomena, and the Egyptian Royal Cubit (and thus the Great Pyramid) into one grand equation (MY is an abbreviation for megalithic yard):

if the lunar year is represented by 12 MY then 1 ft corresponds precisely to the extra 10.875 days to coincide with the end of the solar or seasonal year. Furthermore, the period between the end of the solar year and 13 lunations - 18.656 days - is represented by another unit of length from antiquity, the 'Royal Cubit' of 20.63" or 1.72 ft. [5]

This seems to bring pseudoscientific metrology to new heights, especially in view of the conclusion:

Hence the equally astonishing revelation that 1 MY = 1 ft + 1 RC. Assuming that the MY was the primary unit, then the derivative foot and cubit appear to have formed a logical and essential part of the astronomical and calendrical researches of our Neolithic ancestors. If, however, the foot preceded the MY in time - and here we must remember that 1/1,000th of a degree of arc around the equatorial circumference of the Earth is just 365.244 ft in length! - then knowledge of the roundness of the Earth must have predated use of the MY…i.e. well before 3,000BC. There are no other choices readily apparent!

Thom Baker (ex-Dr Who) said...

But HOW, Brian, Kostas,and Stonehenge Enigma, can it possibly be that people are STILL magnetically drawn to the former Woolworths store in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, despite its having been closed by "U.S. Fred" and his cohorts for so long? Is it something to do with the fact that Trowbridge undoubtedly lies at the centre on a set of ley lines (or should that be lays... on a set of lie line) connecting the fabulous nearby Henge Monuments of Stanton Drew, Avebury and "little old Stonehenge", as Dame Edna endearingly calls it, going on as she does to compare Stonehenge to a Parish Church as opposed to the other two 'Cathedrals'?

Or could it possibly be because the Trowbridge ex-Woolworths building has transformed itself SPOOKILY into a British Heart Foundation Charity furniture and electrical goods store, and the good people of Trowbridge have OPENED UP THEIR HEARTS, ladies & gentlemen, in a tremendous act of generosity of spirit, and still flock in there AS IF it still were F.W.Woolworths.

Perhaps we shall never know.

Constantinos Ragazas said...


I am always very skeptical of statistical odds given for the unfathomable! How do we determine 'random' when it concerns natural processes? Is the direction and flow of a river 'random'? I see more 'mathemagic' at work here!

What I wish from you is your strongest geological evidence for the water inundation of Salisbury Plain that your whole theory depends on. Brian feels the geomorphology of Salisbury Plain cannot possible be a retainer of large bodies of water. You and I think differently! What evidence do you have to make your case?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Thom, maybe those who flock to the old Woolworths store in Trowbridge are drawn by some mysterious urge (that they cannot resist) to obtain large quantities of cheap jelly babies? These of course are not babies at all, but likenesses of the dear departed. In other words, they are modern manifestations of an ancient "ancestor worship" cult.

This of course was (according to certain learned gentlemen) why Stonehenge was initially built with bluestones, which were totems or tributes in the shape and size of certain revered ancestors, carried to Stonehenge from their places of origin. Nowadays, because of planning restrictions, people are not allowed to dig up large stones from the Preseli Hills any more, so they have to make do with jelly babies. These are (or were, when Woolworths was still open) carried to Stonehenge, and consumed there with due reverence during ceremonial visits to the temple. This is just a theory, but I feel that it deserves careful consideration by archaeologists, and may be worth an article or two in certain popular publications, since they clearly don't have anything better on offer.

Thom Baker said...

Brian, I feel you have found me out! My fondness for jelly babies in my Dr Who incarnation has clearly gone before me! Yes, I was indeed an afficianado of Woolworth Stores the length and breadth of the Galaxy (an inferior sweet product). I did repeatedly catch my flowing long scarf in Messrs F. W. Woolworths' doors (my only criticism of that fine emporium).
Meanwhile, I fear "Little Britain"
has become infinitely more miniscule since the banishment of the Woolworth Stores to another Galaxy beyond the imagination of even Darvill & Wainwright.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Matt Parker's analysis of geographical patterns of Woolworth stores frighteningly reveals that my son lives in the middle of the Birmingham - Lichfield - Wolverhampton (or Black Country) Equilateral Triangle. But what the esteemed Dame Edna Everage would undoubtedly call "spooky" is the fact that he studied Mathematics & Physics whilst at University; AND he has always had a sweet tooth. I had always poo-pooed deterministic environmental notions of how life's choices are arrived at, but now I'm not so sure. Most of these creepy old Woolworth store buildings still exist, and now a new season of Dr Who is about to be broadcast to an unsuspecting nation. Keep calm.

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status - Wikipedia

History has claimed many theories as 'Pseudoscience' the major ones that spring to mind are:

Quantum mechanics - that broke the laws of conventional physics and even Einstein did not believe it!

Doggerland - Clement Reid proposed this land after findings made by oyster fishermen in 19th century was also dismissed by acclaimed Geologists

The Earth NOT being the centre of the universe as all religions once preached - You would make a convincing disbelieving Pope Brian!!

Todays 'Pseudoscientic' theories are tomorrows accepted science as will be will be barrow paths.

Kosta - if you divide the number of barrows in the UK by how many square half miles there are on the land, you get the odds of finding a barrow in any half mile square at random, the you times it by a factor of 13 - as the path indicated has 13 in a row - this is known as 'probability' a well known maths discipline not 'mathemagic' I leave that to the Geologists!!

As for 'Geological Proof' of shorelines at Stonehenge the borehole data in my book show clear evidence of 40cm of dark brown sandy gravel slit you would expect from a shoreline that lasted only 1000 years as well as 39 other archaeological 'proofs' of hypothesis in the book - which is probably 30 more proofs than the Devonshire Ice Age even existed!!

Remembering Geologists only accepted the concept of Ice Ages just over 100 years ago - Would you called Ice Ages 'Pseudoscience' a 100 years ago Brian?


BRIAN JOHN said...

Robert, you state: "Todays 'Pseudoscientic' theories are tomorrows accepted science as will be will be barrow paths". That is pure nonsense. The great majority of today's pseudoscience ideas will remain as rubbish in the future, even though they will still find adherents and prophets who push them for a variety of reasons. SOME of the pseudoscientific theories will prove over time to be not far wide of the mark -- I will certainly accept that! That is how science progresses -- through a process of scientific hypothesis formulation and modification.

So far as I am aware, there is not a consistent 40 cm layer of "dark brown sandy gravel silt" over a wide area supposedly submerged beneath your Mesolithic Sea.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Robert, thanks for the post!

We are probably in more agreement about all this than Brian.

Where does the 'borehole evidence' showing 40 cm layer of "dark brown sandy gravel silt" come from? Is there a map showing where these were dug? Is this soil layer similar to what I have seen in photos of the Stonehenge Layer? I think this is very significant. Do you have a blog in your web site where these are discussed?

Clearly the 'borehole evidence' cannot be disputed. But what can be disputed is what it means. That such deposits are made by water I think is clear. You can't have gravel and dark soil mixing in uniformly and thickly without the action of water.

Brian argues that “...there is not a consistent 40 cm layer of "dark brown sandy gravel silt" over a wide area supposedly submerged beneath your Mesolithic Sea.”

I know his point is very significant to your claim of a 'Mesolithic Sea'. But the lack of such layer spread over a wide area fits perfectly with my 'ice theory'. Surely, where ice covered the land there will be no 'silt layer'. But at those parts of the landscape where there were meltwater streams or retaining ice holes (like I claim was the case at Stonehenge) you will get collecting at the bottom of such retaining basins a silt layer from stagnant collecting water. This is how I claim the Stonehenge Layer formed!.

You write:
“ … if you divide the number of barrows in the UK by how many square half miles there are on the land, you get the odds of finding a barrow in any half mile square at random, the you times it by a factor of 13 - as the path indicated has 13 in a row - this is known as 'probability' a well known maths discipline not 'mathemagic'”

The problem is not the math but the interpretation and presuppositions that go into any statistical analysis. Statistics combines both math and non-mathematical knowledge. What your analysis shows is that the 13 barrows could not have happened 'randomly'. But can we infer therefore that men made them? Many mountain peaks I've seen also are in a straight line. Are these mountains also man-made?

I am pleased we agree on Quantum Mechanics! You should read my knols on this subject, starting with a classical continuous proof of Planck's Law that does not use 'energy quanta'!



The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Brian and Kosta

The borehole data is consistent all over Stonehenge bottom. You can either purchase this information from the British Geological Survey site at £12.95 each - there is 5 coving a line adjacent to the A303 or buy my book at £14.95 and read about them in the appendices.

Further evidence Kosta elsewhere in Britain can be found on my blog site at were you can ask direct questions to me rather than bothering poor old Brian!


BRIAN JOHN said...

Just tell us what the borehole data tells you, Robert, and we'll see whether we want to believe you. If you have 40 cm of dark brown gravel and silt in a depression, how do you interpret from that that you had a Mesolithic inundation? Look at the Salisbury Plain Geology Report, and you will see that there are gravels and silts all over the place, and in many different stratigraphic positions, depending on local river valley conditions.

Your interpretation of these silty gravels is obviously not the same as that of the geologists who wrote the report....