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 Location: Yorkshire, England.  Grid Reference: 54° 12' 13.9" N. 1° 33' 24.84" W

 

      Thornborough: (Megalithic Complex).

Described by English Heritage as the most important ancient site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys.

The Thornborough Henges are part of a larger, sacred Neolithic landscape which was used for over a thousand years. The Henges were built over a pre-existing Cursus, which is no longer visible above ground; a part of which has been irreversibly lost through the continued efforts of 'Tarmac PLC', to extract the spirit of the site by quarrying around it.

Knight and Butler proposed that the complex was positioned at 1/10th the planets circumference from the pole (Based on a division of 366°). The Henges all have circumferences of 732 megalithic yards (366 x 2), and the distance between the centres of the three Henges is 366 MR and 360 MR (4)

(1856 Map with position of Cursus)

(Map of Location)

 

 

 The Thornborough Complex:

'The Stonehenge of the North'...

The three Henges at Thornborough are a part of the ancient English landscape. They follow the same off-centre alignment seen at other triple-circles in England. Even before the Henges were built, the triple-circle was built over an existing Cursus, suggesting that Thornborough was already an important ritual centre to the Neolithic residents between 4,000 and 2,000 BC, and although we have little or no idea of what the rituals were, it is proposed that they were partly astronomical in nature.

 

Description of the Site:

The Cursus: The central Henge was built over a previously existing Cursus, which is 1.1km long and 44m wide. although nothing is visible of the Cursus now, and digging has unfortunately ruined the western end of the Cursus, the eastern end is hopefully going to be protected under new agreements.

The Henges: All three are unusual in that the banks are constructed from the earth of two ditches; one dug around the outside of the Henge, and the other excavated inside. In all case the internal ditch was of neater, better construction and a broad berm lies between it and the bank. A small excavation at the central circle revealed that the banks had once been covered with a layer of gypsum. This would have made them appear gleaming white.

 

The Geodetic Placement of Thornborough.

The realisation that the circumference of the Thornborough Henges were 722 MY, led Knight and Butler (4) to propose that the Henges were used as an 'observatory' for viewing the motions of Orion in particular. They also pointed out that the Henge at Stonehenge has a circumference of 366 MY (as does the Dorchester Big-rings Henge).  In accordance with their 366° theory, the authors show that Thornborough sits at exactly 1/10th of the planets circumference from the pole, and remarkably, that the three Henges are separated from each other by 360 MR and 366 MR.

The apparent relationship between Triple Henges/Stone Circles and Orion is continued at several other sites in UK and around the ancient world.

 

An Orientation to Orion...?

It has been suggested that the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed so as to imitate the three stars of Orion's belt. (4) Should this be the case, then one has to question if other triple circles/Henges in Britain may have also been constructed for the same purpose.

The first major monument on the site was built around 3,500 BC. This was a 1.2 km long processional way, aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion. This also meant the eastern end aligned to the midsummer solstice.

 

Then, around 3000 BC, when the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed, they appear to have been deliberately laid out to mirror Orion’s Belt. Not only this, but their southern entrances framed the rising of the bright star, Sirius, which in turn meant their axis aligned on the midwinter solstice.

In an article by Dr Harding, he explained: “Thornborough was a sacred landscape, a place of religious worship, and we should try to interpret these astronomical orientations within that context.

“This astronomical association was emphasised by the banks of the Henges being coated in brilliant white gypsum. Neolithic people surely felt they were at the centre of the very cosmos as they worshipped the heavens above.”

Professor Clive Ruggles, author of Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, was not so convinced by the Orion's belt layout of the Henges.

In 2003, following a television documentary on Thornborough, he wrote on his website: “The idea that the configuration of the Henges themselves formed a spatial representation of the three stars is something that I view with considerable scepticism.” He did, however, concede that it is plausible that the rising of the stars, in relation to the local landscape, may have been significant. He said:

For the record, it is the other aspects of the astronomical arguments at Thornborough, notably the various alignments upon the horizon rising position of Orion's Belt, combined with the other evidence for Thornborough being some sort of pilgrimage centre, that combine to make a plausible case that the heliacal rising of Orion's Belt was the trigger that caused people to set out on their journey to the site from afar for an autumn ceremony.”

(Orion Worship and Triple Circles)

 

The Hurlers Stone Circles, Cornwall.

The 'Hurlers' triple stone circles in England have also been observed to have been laid so as to be aligned to mirror Orion's belt which would have risen through the southern circle on the winter solstice at the time it was built c. 1500 BC. They lie on the Eastern end of the St. Michael's Leyline.

(More about the Hurlers)

 

 

Alignments:

All three of the Thornborough Henges have two entrances which are aligned, like the Henge alignment itself, roughly NW-SE, which again is typical, and were laid out at approximately equal intervals along an alignment about 1.6 km (1 mile) in length.

The Thornborough henges alignment continues south through Nunwick henge to meet the 'Devil's arrows' around 10 km S.E. There are also another four henges in the vicinity, which one assumes were also a part of the sacred landscape around Thornborough.

 

Quarrying at Thornborough:

Controversial plans to extend a quarry close to an ancient monument in North Yorkshire have recently (Aug 2008), been given the go-ahead for the second time, according to the BBC (Link to article).

The mighty 'Tarmac' organisation have highlighted the importance of the Thornborough complex again recently through their plans to continue excavating the periphery of this site. Considering the value of the site, as confirmed by the statement from English Heritage that Thornborough is 'The most important site between the Orkneys and Stonehenge', ones imagination boggles at the fact that contractors have been once again given the go-ahead to continue quarrying.

What seems to be eluding the organisers of this project is that the three henges are not in isolation here. On the contrary, they are the centre of an important sacred landscape, which was used for over a thousand years. The result of quarrying the surrounding area is the wholesale destruction of parts of this landscape, which will be irreversibly lost to future (and perhaps wiser), generations.

(More about Desecrated Megaliths)

(www.friendsofthornborough)

   (www.worldheritage.org)

 

(Cursus)

(Henges Homepage)

(Other Prehistoric English sites)

 

References:

 
4). C. Knight; A. Butler. Before The Pyramids. 2009. Watkins Publishing.
 

 

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