Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Monday, 25 November 2013

Stonehenge simulations

Thanks to John Fillwalk for these two images -- from the Idialab web site of Ball State University:
Click to enlarge.

Nice images -- the top one is a reconstruction of the "immaculate Stonehenge" which is still engrained in assorted belief systems, regardless of the fact that we have no evidence that Stonehene ever did look like this......

The bottom one is a recreation of the midsummer solstice sunrise.

It appears that this simulation work will be featured in various History Channel TV programmes still to be shown.


ND Wiseman said...

Pretty cool renditions!
I have no idea about the POV in the top image, though I suspect it's supposed to be sort of from the East.

The bottom picture is very interesting, though I have no idea what that hill-thing on the left/outside is supposed to be.

Neither image shows the Lintels to be level on top.

Nicely done and Kudos to IDIA!


Jon Morris said...

Nice renders

Horizon is too low, seems to be a new unknown stone in the distance between 1 and 2 plus mysterious mound Neil's noted. Bluestones too far apart for that perspective position. Seems odd for a CAD model to generate mistakes so assume it's not a model but an artist's impression?

chris johnson said...

While there is a hefty dose of "artist impressions" anybody who does NOT believe that stonehenge people were not strongly influenced by stars, moon, and sun are a bit BONKERS.

This technology may well be the tool we need to unravel the alignments at other places too. One confusing element (of many) is that some star alignments may have been determined much earlier than the monument phase we are able to observe and have a historic or traditional value not completely understood by the monument builders even.

In my mental model the neolithic started out as a star absorbed culture and evolved over 2000 years to become sun worshippers. The stars were moving and the milky way disappearing below the horizon - which must have been quite upsetting for any astronomer priest. In comparison the sun has a high degree of predictability unless you understand precession, which they almost certainly did not.

Geocur said...

Chris ,the observation that the background stars were moving (one degree every 72 years/3 generations ?)at a different rate to the sun and moon i.e. the difference between precession and obliquity (what RJL gets confused about)may well have been made.It would take much longer to apprecaite than the simple solar cycle or even lunar cycles , but it is still a possibility .
We can easily assess whether a putative alignment worked for stars ,as opposed the sun and moon ,for any period but we shouldn't date monuments from their possible alignments , it's risky enough with the sun and moon but to do so with stars would be much riskier .

Jon Morris said...

One confusing element (of many) is that some star alignments may have been determined much earlier than the monument phase.

Could be Chris. The apparent alignments within some monuments may be directly related to whatever they were doing. On the other hand, the apparent alignments together with apparent non-alignments may be a secondary effect generated by some other related operation. If the latter, anyone who goes looking for the correlation to alignments will be chasing their tail?

chris johnson said...

What always impressed me is that the Milky Way was in 4000-3000 BC circling the horizon. Viewed from Windmill Hill it would have been a wondrous sight. Maybe it even helps make sense of the henge as a horizon.

Today in West Europe we do not see the Milky Way but those in other parts of the world who can take many photos, hardly any of which capture the magnificence.

It can hardly have anything less than a huge impact on people in southern Britain at those times.

As the generations passed the Milky Way slowly disappeared, inexplicably I feel. It must have been a troubling phenomenon and been talked about often and the heavens studied for clues and causes.

K.D. said...

Love those Stonehenge Stimulations …

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, it wouldn't be the first time that the bluestones (or some of them) have been referred to as phallic symbols -- I recall that Rodney Castledyne was rather keen on the idea. Stonehenge as a fertility clinic? Now there's a thought....

Peter Dunn said...

Belated comments on these images.
Haven’t we seen this sort of thing dozens of times before and are they saying anything new about Stonehenge?
The hill-thing on the left outside the stones is the grassed over bank, this and the other images on the website show the bank in sections as it on most of the Wessex Archaeology plans in Stonehenge and its Landscape all the recent plans as in the Stonehenge Riverside Stages show the bank as continuous in all the stages and this has been the thought from at least 2004.
The lintels look very uneven, should be level and be fitted together closely by the joints if this is at any period in the Neolithic or Early BA, but what period are these images? Presumably Neolithic as the stone visible between Sarsens 1 and 2 would be in stonehole F just outside the Aubrey Holes and cut into the slope of the bank and therefore thought to be after the construction of the ditch and bank, but I think the stone in the image looks a bit too big for that stonehole and the bank should continue around behind the stone to its terminal. F is one of those in a possible circle of stones with holes G and H and the station stones pointed out by Mike Pitts.
The horizon, the Larkhill ridge, does I think appear to low in the bottom image and I wonder if the present trees on that ridge hide the view of the sunrise emerging from the very top of Sidbury hill which is directly on the axis and is very prominent in that view from Woodhenge.
On the question of the images having mistakes and therefore being “artist’s impressions” not CAD models, how very dare you! There are lots of glaring mistakes on CGI reconstructions on all the TV programmes on Stonehenge going back 15 years and I once had to reposition the sarsen circle in a CGI model being done for EH where the stones were somewhat less than central to the ditch and bank, the modellers were using information from a hazy satellite image and the bronze model of Stonehenge sold in the visitor centre shop. So it really depends on who the CAD/CGI model or reconstruction is produced by, where the information/data comes from how well they understand the information.
Fully agree with the Stonehenge and Durrinton and other monuments being strongly influenced by the moon, sun and possibly the stars particularly in the early stages.

chris johnson said...

There are some superb artists impressions in MPP's presentation. I was particularly struck by the choice in several to show a white background rather than the traditional green grass look.

I wonder if anything is known about how the monument actually looked at the various construction times?

Charles said...

” white background”?? Could it be snow or ice?

chris johnson said...

Snow and ice? This interpretation is certainly possible for a winter festival. My curiosity is more about whether the white chalk was used in the design, reflecting say the swirl of the Milky Way, the hugeness of a full moon, or even the bones of the ancestors.

Peter Dunn said...

Yes definitely snow and ice, most of the paintings in MPP’s recent online lecture are my work, so thanks if those are the ones you are referring to. There is one of the new settings of Sarsen and Bluestones at Stonehenge around 2480 BC from the Stonehenge Riverside dating it is in the snow showing the mid winter sunset, also one the Durrington settlement around 2600-2500BC in frost at the mid winter sunrise.
I prefer the term Reconstruction to Artists Impression, as they are usually collaborative pieces with archaeologists, historians and other disciplines and are always based on up to date research, information and interpretation. The reconstructions are always a representation of how a site may have looked at a particular time, never definitely how it looked.
The reconstructions in the presentation are some of those in Mike PP’s recent book much discussed here and elsewhere, they have many hours of discussion with Mike and others as well as some research and interpretation s of my own.
There is environmental data from the stages of construction of Stonehenge and other monuments in the surrounding landscape and experimental work on construction, weathering and growth of vegetation on chalk banks and ditches so I think the details in the reconstructions are as accurate as can be at the time they were produced in 2011.
Was the white ditch and bank at Stonehenge or Durrington representing the milkyway, moon or the bones of the ancestors could be all or none or just that is what you get digging a henge in chalk. Strange though at Thornborough where the henges are not on chalk there is evidence that at least one the 3 henges banks was coated in white gypsum so perhaps the impact of the white in the landscape had symbolic meaning, also depicted in a reconstruction of Thornborough.

chris johnson said...

Thanks for your long post, Peter, which contains much food for thought.

I wonder what the experienced minds think about the Long Barrows which are present in large numbers around the circle and likely predate the 2480 (?) construction by a thousand years or more. Some think they were finished with a white chalk covering which, if true, would have been spectacular.

I was struck recently at Rhosyfelin by the chalky white weathering on those blue stones. Surely this coincidence of colour would not have gone unnoticed.

Peter Dunn said...

Chris the date 2480 BC is that of the end of stage 2 in the SRP dating, I placed the reconstruction at the end of Stage 2 and beginning of stage 3 to be able to show the proposed inner bluestone circle predating the horseshoe setting.
Not sure what the experienced minds think, but some of the long barrows around Stonehenge and on Salisbury plain and Marlborough Downs are constructed of Chalk and therefore would have had that spectacular look until grassed over. Again is this just a happy consequence of construction on chalk, it didn’t stop building of barrows in other areas.
I haven’t seen the weathering on the Rhosyfelin bluestones.

chris johnson said...

I took some photos at Rhosyfelin:
The whiteness is very evident, as are some other visually striking effects such as the blueness of the raw stone, and the resemblance of some of the stones to old wood.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Nice photos, Chris -- but I am not at all convinced by this stuff about blueness and "old wood texture". Seems to me that you are working a bit too hard to find a reason why those splendid old ancestors of ours would want to dig up mighty monoliths and drag them all the way to Stonehenge...... reminds me of the old idea that they collected spotted dolerite stones from Carn Meini because the texture reminded them of the mysteries of the starlit night sky. Hmmm......

chris johnson said...

Fair comment, Brian.
A presumption is that the neolithic communities were connected when stonehenge was being remodelled in the period around 2480 BC.

The method by which the stones were transported is interesting but not decisive in exploring this aspect. There is a lot of evidence that various stone sources were known over a wide geographic area and this leads me to believe that the approximate source of the Presceli stones would have been recognised even if they were physically lying around on Salisbury Plain already.

Your point on Carn Menyn is indeed surprising, although it does not invalidate the star connection for spotted dolerite. The newly identified sources are on high ground and in a good location for ancient astronomers - actually better positioned than Carn Menyn.

People arguing either transportation case should find an explanation why stones from Carn Menyn were NOT taken. MPP is already on the way to an explanation by pointing to a common connection along the river valley. Why the glacier missed Carn Menyn is an equivalent mystery.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I suppose you can argue that if the Neolithic tribes knew about "preselite" axes, then they knew where they came from and somehow valued the source area. You could also argue that they had no idea where they came from, and simply valued them as rather exotic items -- like lots of other axe types. There is certainly no ecidence of spottd dolerite or rhyolite being used preferentially in stone settings in West Wales -- so why would anybody want to cart orthostats all the way to Stonehenge?

Chris -- the glacier did not "miss" Carn Meini. Erratic entrainment is a complex business, as I try to explain in my book and in many entries on this blog.

chris johnson said...

Brian, I wonder if you ever read Timothy Darvill's paper "Megaliths, Monuments, and Materiality". It can be downloaded at
There are no stories of healing wells, but a lot of evidence that materials could be chosen with care and sensitivity. It is a good read on a rainy afternoon with a pot of tea ....