Monday 15 December 2014

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below by Paul Burley

Stonehenge: As Above, So Below 

by Paul Burley

Paul kindly sent me a copy of his book.

My first impression was very positive, it is a handsome book, well printed and illustrated. This is surprisingly important, there are books on Stonehenge I refuse to read because of their shoddy feel and look.

The book is thoroughly researched and referenced though some of the diagrams don't aid understanding as well as they could. Which is a shame as Paul's thesis is monumental in scope and importance. Nowhere does he spell it out in a few simple phrases so my paraphrase of it is that the ancient landscape around Stonehenge, especially the Long Barrows and Cursus, were laid out as a large map or representation of the stars and constellations. This is analogous to other ancient civilisations' spiritual respect for the cosmos.

He analyses alignments and sightlines and angles to a great degree of precision, and this makes for a very interesting read. My regard for Stonehenge is more boringly mechanical than his lovingly told descriptions of rituals and how they may have been echoed at the site.

For me it was a bit too astronomically technical, but that would suit many researchers into Stonehenge. I found the lack of a clearly defined thesis made it hard to judge the claims being made and the potential counter arguments that the components of his astral map were too temporally distinct and diverse and so on, were not acknowledged. This left me with the feeling that the theory was only half argued and that I was unconvinced.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I learned a lot and it made me think of the landscape in a different way, even if I didn't immediately become a full flown convert at first reading. For anyone interested in archeoastronomy and Stonehenge I can recommend it.


  1. Tim ,
    intrigued , I had an admittedly cursory listen to so maybe I missed some important points .
    it looks like the detail appears around 46:00 mins . It appears to be another case of cherry picking and ignoring what doesn’t fit . In relation to Stonehenge we find it with metrology and astronomy and in relation to landscape we get it with rock art , zodiacs and astronomy , all hugely contentious .
    In this case there are a group of major monuments from the period and in the same landscape that have simply been ignored e.g. Robin Hoods ball . lesser Cursus , The Avenue , Durrington Walls and some Long Barrows .
    The winter hexagon and Alnilam the central star in Orion’s belt are the basis for the pattern below .Alnilam is represented by Stonehenge but the two prominent stars either side in the belt are not represented . Looking at just three of the star /site representations it is clear that Aldebaran , which represents Coneybury henge , doesn’t really fit . I haven’t considered Capella which represents woodhenge or Procyon ,Pollux and Rigel which represent unnamed long barrows .I would like to . Would you mind having a look at saying what monuments they represent ? whatever they are it would still mean that other long barrows have been omitted .

  2. Geo - to be frank I don't think I can, the index doesn't help and it would be a case of scanning through pages of text to try to find out. Your criticism is valid and I also wonder if you studied any other ancient landscape as much as the Stonehenge one would you find similar correlations.

  3. ok ,thanks Tim .
    Landscapes with multiple monuments could provide easily the basis for finding representations of constellations asterisms etc . . The most obvious is Orion and it's supposed correlation with the Giza pyramids or any group of three ponts that are not quite in a straight line .
    As long as you can cherry pick you can almost find what you want . Same goes for "alignments " where there are multiple options as at Stonehenge .

  4. Tim ,
    Some simple triangulation makes it clear that the unnamed Long barrows in the talk are Rigel = Amesbury 14 , Procyon = Durrington 24 and Pollux = Knighton Barrow .
    Further investigation shows that all three fail to fit the angular relationship found in the Winter hexagram e.g. in the case of Aldebaran –Procyon –Capella this is out by as much as 17 degrees .
    It is obvious from a glance at the winter hexgram that the distance relationships with their respective landscape representations are also wrong e.g. Capella –Procyon is clearly a bigger distance than Aldebaran –Procyon but when we look at their respective landscape representations i.e. Coneybury Durrington and Woodhenge the distances are the other way round i.e. Capella (Woodhenge ) to Procyon (Durrington 24 ) is less than Coneybury (Aldebaran ) to Procyon (Durrington 24 ) .Unfortunately a bit long winded but it’s better than ignoring the problems .