Alternative archaeology

12 Ravenstone and lunch (25)

Mary Smith wrote in the comments of Going West – Walking with Angels, “Can’t help but notice there is a lot of shadowing going on in your most recent posts and am wondering where you are leading us?” I spent a while writing a response as long as a blog post before I took the hint…

The ‘shadowing’ that Mary refers to is the apparent… and disputed… reproduction in the stone of many ancient monuments of prominent features in the landscape. A monolith in a stone circle that aligns with and captures the shape of a nearby peak… the capstone of a tomb that follows the contours of the horizon… and in some places, whole arrangements of stone that seem to mirror, in miniature, the skyline of the land in which it stands.

stonehenge 003There are many who dismiss the idea as fanciful. There are many who speculate upon the unlikelihood of primitive man being able to envision or achieve such feats… regardless of the scale and precision of places like Stonehenge, Avebury or Silbury. Bearing in mind that these same primitive ancestors were contemporary with the pyramid builders of Egypt, we feel that there may be more than just the visible monument to understand at these ancient sites, but as their builders are long gone, only the silent stones remain to plead their case.

Over the past century or so, many theories have moved from precarious positions on the lunatic fringe into the accepted realms of archaeology. We cannot know all the answers to what was being built into the sites that remain, any more than it is possible to replicate the entire picture of a jigsaw puzzle when half the pieces are missing. However, the work of pioneers like Alexander Thom and John Michell, building  upon the work of Aubrey Burl, William Stukeley and their ilk, has carried forward the notion of a knowledge of geometry, land and sky that is far in advance of that for which the ‘primitives’ were once given credit.Nick Birds SE Ilkley 2015 uffington avebury cropton Helmsley 130

There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of books proposing theories about the sacred geometry that our ancestors used in constructing ancient sites of sanctity worldwide. The plethora of theories, some of them very far-fetched, often clouds the central agreement that there was an understanding of geometry in use, thousands of years before Pythagoras was born. It may not have been the intellectual application of degrees and angles that we know today. It may have been closer to an artistic vision that understood the rightness of harmony… but whatever it was, its mark on the landscape provides a fascinating study for the mathematically minded.

Pioneers of archaeoastronomy were also dismissed with their lunatic theories. It is now a part of mainstream archaeology. The idea is not that our ancestors had scientific knowledge that rivalled that acquired by NASA, but more that they understood the movement and cycles of the heavens. If all you have to look at when the fire flickers low is the vault of stars above, you are going to see more than we do, when the light of the stars is drowned by our cities, cars and televisions. What was learned through such observation was woven into symbolic stories and they learned how to use their understanding, creating structures to capture, record and predict the passing of the heavenly bodies through their cycles. For what reason? Again, we do not know for certain… but we know that they did.

The record left by the ancients in these Isles is enigmatic. There are no written documents dating from that time, unlike Egypt, for example, where the cultural remains of an ancient people allow us to appreciate their sophistication. When researching the Egyptian myths for The Osiriad, I was astonished by the depth of knowledge and understanding the myths encapsulated, both of human psychology and their understanding of the natural world, going right back to their stories of Creation. Some archaeologists assert that as only people’s actions, not their thoughts, are preserved in the archaeological record, we cannot know anything about how ancient minds worked. One modern branch of the science is cognitive archaeology that looks at precisely that, seeking to trace back, through the artefacts that remain, to the thoughts of ancient peoples and the meanings of the symbolic structures they have left us.

stoned-sue-vincent

We are not without some points of reference. Ancient cultures that did leave a written record, surviving cultures and those indigenous peoples who straddle both past and present, all give us clues into how the mind of ‘primitive’ man may have worked. In Britain there seems to have been no tradition of preserving words other than through the oral tradition that continued into our early history with the teaching stories we now call myths. Cognitive archaeology is perhaps the best chance we have, using mainstream methods, of finding answers.

It isn’t just about the mainstream disciplines though. There are others that have been, or still are, looked at askance by the formal sciences. Some pseudo-archaeologists, quite rightly so, in my personal opinion, it has to be said. Neither Stuart nor I have any objection to being consigned to the lunatic fringe. We do the reading and the research in order to learn about the sites we visit… usually after we have visited them…and that is the extent of our formal knowledge. What we do have is deep love of these ancient places and we spend as much time with them as our daily lives allow. It doesn’t really matter to us how these sites were built, though we will marvel at their engineering and their beauty and ponder the reasons why; it is enough that they were and that they remain, shrouded in mystery and requiring more than a brief visit to marvel and  capture with a camera the wonders of an ancient world.

12 Ravenstone and lunch (20)This mirroring of the landscape in the stones of the sites is not something you would notice on a casual visit… or if you did, you would probably note and dismiss it. Yet, when it is something you see over and over again, no matter where you go, then you start to take notice. We are not the first to have noticed it, but now we look for it.

We called it ‘mirroring’ for a long time, an accepted term, until Stuart stated a fact so obvious that it had escaped us; a mirror image reverses the object… and these stones do not. They follow the lie of the land and do not create a mirror image. They are more like shadows.

We don’t know the reasons why… but it seems as if our ancestors tried to capture the essence of a sacred landscape… the contour, for example, of a hill that looks like a recumbent goddess, or a landscape feature that seems unique… and embody that in their stones. Maybe they were creating a miniature version of something they held as a manifestation of the divine…a microcosmic representation of the macrocosm. Maybe they wished to place their dead in tombs consecrated by that shadowed image. Maybe they saw them as portals to the Otherworld… we cannot know.

Wales 239One thing we have learned, though, is that the sites are not placed upon the landscape, but within it. The stones cannot be looked at on their own but need to be seen as part of a greater whole. What we glimpse in these places we may never find the words for; it is not knowledge or certainty in the accepted sense, but it is in spending time within the landscape, both natural and created, that understanding shifts and sparkles.

Some of our experiences at these sites seem to suggest an idea of inner voyaging that would accord well with the shamanic practices still extant…and some of those experiences we have shared in our books. The ancient folk were not so very different from ourselves… the frame of their days might seem unfamiliar to our eyes, but the basic needs and aspirations of humanity change only in form, not in essence. To sit, open to silence, within an ancient circle of stones and look beyond to the hills is to see through your own eyes and that of any other human being from any age of the world. What they saw with their understanding of their own era, we see with the questions of our own… but the land remains.

Avebury SE weekend 989

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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25 Responses to Alternative archaeology

  1. Fascinating…yes, I remember how all these theories were dismissed as rubbish not even that long ago…Reading your words about sacred geometry and the shadowing of sacred sites was brilliant, like confirmation of something people always knew but were afraid to admit…sorry, rambling, but these reminders from the past are something we should look at and learn from, treasure our links with our ancestors…great post!!

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      Thanks, Samantha. Pretty much any advance in thought and understanding is first greeted with ridicule… then eventually adopted and turned respectable. It tends to be what the establishment sees as the lunatic fringe that brings in the new ideas and approaches.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Denis1950 says:

    Fascinating Sue, I think the ancient peoples around the world are still around and watching!!

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think so too. There is a theory that all time is but one single scintilla and that all things happen at one, linear time being the way we have created in order to observe and experience life, picking a single thread from the skein.

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  3. Bernadette says:

    Thank you for this very detailed explanation. I agree with you and others about the theory of time that you explained above.
    Wednesday is SENIOR SALON day. Don’t for get to post.

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  4. wonderful and professorial (in all the best senses of that word)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. memadtwo says:

    The photos themselves are magical…I’m sure it’s multiplied many times to actually stand in those places. As you say, knowledge is not the same as knowing. (K)

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  6. Bun Karyudo says:

    Very interesting. I’m not qualified to take a position on the likelihood or otherwise of any particular theory of sacred geometry. I will say, though, that I’d be surprised if our ancient ancestors did not have an intimate knowledge of the movement and cycles of the stars and planets. In a world without television, I’ll bet they spent a lot of time watching the sky. 🙂

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’m no mathematician either, but when you see how it works, you don’t really need the maths… it is all about shape and form.
      Yes, they had no option really but to know the night sky and its cycles pretty well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Smith says:

    Well, I am very glad I noticed your shadowing references and asked the question. I love the idea of a sacred geometry being something felt/understood as harmonious. Your photos show very clearly what you mean about the stones shadowing the land. I will look more closely next time I visit any Stones. And I really want to see those ones you’ve walked us round in Wales.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’m glad you asked too, Mary… a good excuse for me to waffle…and organise some thoughts. Somewhere I have oodles of photos of these sites, though getting the camera to capture what the eye can see is not easy for some reason. I hope you get down to Wales though… the stones there are spectacular and we only havd time to scratch the surface.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for asking, Mary…so many people don’t you know… Such an approach to the stones, as you propose, is sure to reap rich reward…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Maybe, like cave paintings, it is art in a pure form. They loved the beauty around them, so why NOT attempt to capture it? Why should that seem strange? Why WOULDN’T they want to do it? Certainly our ancestors have shown remarkable artistic skills, so … ? To me, this doesn’t require an explanation.

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I agree that beauty for beauty’s sake is as good an explanation as any, though I have to wonder at the manpower and dedication involved in splitting and lifting those stones. It would have had to have been a communal effort and, given the work involved in survival back then, art for art’s sake alone, on that scale, would probably not have been a priority. But art for a purpose they deemed necessary to the community’s wellbeing, that I can see.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    It is all so endlessly fascinating! Sometimes I wish there was a time machine. 🙂

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  10. Pingback: Alternative Archaeology | History… Our Evolution

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