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       The Alignment and Orientation of Prehistoric Sites:

It was a common practice in prehistory to orientate and align constructions to significant celestial objects or landscape features. They represent a communication between our ancestors and their environment. This section of the site explores the themes most commonly associated with these alignments and tries to interpret their meaning.



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So common was the orientation of ancient structures that in-fact, it is rare to find a site that wasn't orientated towards something or other. Although by no means exclusive, it is evident that orientation was an integral part of almost all ancient constructions, endowing them with properties which presumably re-enforced the function(s) of these structures.



   Celestial Orientation:

Solar orientations: Although by no means exclusive, an extra-ordinary number of structures from around the ancient world were orientated to face significant moments of the solar cycle for thousands of years. Many sites also have suggestions of ritual, for example, the Hypogeum on Malta contained the remains of roughly 7,000 humans, and both the entrance and the 'Holy of holies' within the underground necropolis were found to be orientated to the winter solstice. Similarly, numerous of the Wessex long-barrows have solar orientation such as the West Kennet long-barrow. This intimate connection between death and the orientation of structures towards the Sun was repeated around the ancient world.


Egyptian Structures: A preference for solar orientation is clearly seen in early dynastic Egypt with the combination of scientific precision and ceremony resulting in the creation of the last surviving wonders of the  ancient world in the cardinally orientated Giza pyramids. Sites that have been orientated in this way demonstrate a fundamental understanding of solar astronomy.

Sir Norman Lockyer noted that in Egypt, the majority of northerly sites (i.e. Giza, Abusir), were cardinally orientated to the equinoxes, whilst in the south (i.e. Karnak, Denderra), there was a preference for orientation to the solstices.


Lunar orientations: The orientation of sites to the solar cycle has been generally determined to have been preceded by a preference for lunar orientation at several important sites such as Stonehenge and Carnac for example, both of which show a transfer of orientation from lunar to solar at around 3,100 BC. It is now known that several of the megaliths in the Carnac region were re-used from earlier constructions which Alexander Thom demonstrated were originally lunar. A particularly good example of this is the Lochmariaquer complex at which one large menhirs from an original alignment of 19 stones, is now understood to have been broken and re-used as capstones for the Er-Grah, Table des Marchands and Gavr'inis passage mounds - all of which were orientated to points of the solar-cycle.

(Click here for more on this subject)


The hundreds of recumbent 'circles' in Scotland demonstrate a preference for lunar orientation to phases of the lunar cycle, specifically the midsummer full-moon (2). In addition to which:

'Statistical proof of lunar alignments has now been provided by an exhaustive study of 276 sites in Western Scotland. The monuments concerned are not stone circles but free-standing lines formed of usually two or three stones. The analysis showed a strong preference for lines to the south-east. This implies that the structures were deliberately aligned on the southerly limit of the rising moon in its monthly cycle'. (1)

It is an interesting fact that the only recumbent circles found outside of Scotland, are in the Ross-Carbery area of Ireland, which places them too far south to make them any use as lunar observatories, and have in fact been shown to be solar in their orientation. The Drombeg RSC, where the sun has been observed setting at midwinter (solstice), directly into a notch in the landscape behind the recumbent stone.

(More about Recumbent Stone Circles R.S.C's)


Pleiades (The Seven Sisters): Alexander Thom suggested that certain sites he examined were orientated towards the seven sisters, the rising of which signified the beginning of the agricultural year throughout the ancient world. (Pleiades sits at the centre of our galaxy).


Orion: Even though Orion is not one of today's zodiacal constellations, it is one of the most prominent in the night sky. The Egyptian fascination with Orion (Osiris), formed an important part of their mythology. It is interesting to note that while the Valley-temple at Giza was dedicated to Isis, the similarly styled Osireion at Abydoss was dedicated to Osiris. Whether or not this has any bearing or association to the preference for solar orientation (as mentioned above), is not yet understood.

(Orion Worship in Prehistory)

(More about Archaeoastronomy)



   Geometric Alignments:

There have been several suggestions of evidence for prehistoric geometric alignments, that is - alignments between ancient sites and/or landscape features which demonstrate geometric principles.


Sir Norman Lockyer made the first 'professional' observation of geometry in the lay-out of the ancient landscape. He realised that a geometric connection existed between Stonehenge, Grovely (Grove-ley) castle and Old Sarum. The three form an equilateral triangle with sides 6 miles long. The Stonehenge-Old Sarum line is continued another 6 miles to the site of the present Salisbury Cathedral, then the Clearbury rings and Frankenbury, while the  Stonehenge, Grovely castle line is also astronomical as it is orientated along the path of the summer solstice, and also connects other ancient sites.



Stonehenge has been shown to be connected to other sites through geometry. In particular, the connection between Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Avebury, which also extends onwards to other important megalithic sites such as Arbor Low, which sits exactly 1 east and 2 north of Glastonbury. The Glastonbury- Avebury line is orientated along the line of the summer solstice and the Glastonbury-Stonehenge line is also a part of the great 'Decagon' discovered by John Michell.

(More about Geometric alignments)


(More about English Geodesy)

(Geodesy Homepage)




A look at some of the more popular theories proposed to explain the frequency of alignments between natural objects and megalithic constructions.

Most cultures have traditions and words to describe the straight, often geometrical lines that run across landscapes, connecting ancient or sacred features together. Usually the names given to represent these invisible lines are translated to an equivalent of 'spirit', 'dream', or 'energy' paths. Apart from the physical presence of these connected sites however, little remains from which to deduce much about their origin or purpose.

Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins, whose book The Old Straight Track brought the alignments to the attention of the wider public. He said of them:

"It is quite useless looking for existing fragments, however old, of roads which may remain from the first track, although, as we shall see, some bits may form useful indications of its site. The changes from early days have been so many in the matter of roads. We must therefore clear our minds, not only of what we think of roads, even Roman ones, but of our surmises, and begin again." (4)

(More about Ley-lines)



   The World Grid:

How far do alignments extend, and what is their relationship to each other.


The idea that there may have once existed a so called 'World-grid' has been explored by several people in the past.

Flinders Petrie was the first respected European to conclude that Giza complex had been placed geodetically, at the 'Geographic centre of the land surfaces of the whole world'. This theory has been expounded by several researchers including Hancock and in particular Livvio Stecchini, who's work was highlighted by Peter Tompkins (3), who had the following to say on the subject:

'Because of the advanced geodetic and geographic science of the Egyptians, Egypt became the geodetic centre of the known world. Other countries located their shrines and capital cities in terms of Egyptian 'zero' meridian, including such capitals such as Nimrod, Sardis, Susa, Persepolis, and apparently, even the ancient Chinese capital of An-Yang... As each of these geodetic centres was a political as well as geographical 'navel' of the world, an Omphalos or stone navel, was placed there to represent the northern hemisphere from equator to pole, marked out with meridians and parallels, showing the direction and distance to other such navels'.

(More on the World-Grid)


Interestingly, it has been recognised that the corners of the 3rd -5th Dynasty Pyramids were all built so as to align to Heliopolis, even those at Giza. This clearly suggests that Heliopolis was recognised as the 'Omphalos' of its time.

The Alignment of Pyramid Corners towards 'Innu', or Heliopolis - (The place of creation).

(More on this Subject)


   Miss-aligned Structures:

With so much orientation and aligning going on, why do some sacred sites appear to be orientated almost cardinally. Deviations of 5 - 8 are found commonly around the world. Is this simply the result of a magnetic bearing, or perhaps something else?


Archaeological site plan for La Venta.

Notice how the site is aligned slightly west, (8 west of north). Several Mesoamerican sites have this alignment, including San Jose Magote.

(More about La Venta, home of the Colossal Stone Heads)


(Geometric Alignments)

(Prehistoric Geodesy)



1). J. Manley. Atlas of Prehistoric Britain. 1989. Oxford University Press.
2). C. Ruggles. Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopaedia of Cosmologies and Myth.
3). Tomkins, Peter, Stecchini, Livio Catullo. Secrets of the Great Pyramid. 1971. BBS Publ.


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