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 Location: Goseck, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.  Grid Reference: 51� 12′ 1″ N, 11� 51′ 51″ E.


      Goseck Henge: (The 'German Stonehenge').

The Goseck Henge is an early Neolithic Henge-structure with entrances orientated to the rising and setting winter solstice sun. At c. 5,000 BC, the Goseck 'Henge' is considered the earliest solar observatory currently known in the world. (2).

It lies on the same latitude as Stonehenge. (51� 10' 42" N, 1� 49.4' W), at just over 1' minute of longitude further north (approx 1000m ). The Stonehenge 'Post-holes' are dated at least a thousand years earlier than this monument, but the Henge is considerably older than the one in England.



   Goseck: Form and Function.

When archaeologists Peter Biehl and Francois Bertemes decided to excavate a 7,000-year-old circular enclosure outside of Goseck, Germany, in 2002, they didn't expect to make any major discoveries, certainly nothing that might rewrite the history of Neolithic Europe. "We had just started our archaeology program, and we wanted a place near the university for our students to practice," says Biehl, formerly a professor at Halle-Wittenberg University and now at Cambridge. Combining Global Positioning System data with archaeological evidence from the site, they realised that the two southern gates of the Henge marked the start of the summer and winter solstice, making the enclosure possibly the world's oldest solar observatory. The farmers of Neolithic Central Europe, who most scholars believed were a generally unsophisticated group who tilled the land with basic wooden tools, were actually measuring the heavens far earlier than anyone had ever believed. (1)

The Goseck enclosure and hundreds of similar wooden circular Henges were built throughout Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic during a 200-year period around 4,600 BC. While the sites vary in size--the one at Goseck is around 220 feet in diameter--they all have the same features. A narrow ditch surrounds a circular wooden wall, with a few large gates equally spaced around the outer edge. While scholars have known about the enclosures for nearly a century, they were stumped as to their exact function within the Stroke-Ornamented Pottery culture (known by its German acronym, STK) that dominated Central Europe at the time. (1)

The circle at Goseck is one of more than 250 ring-ditches in Germany, Austria and Croatia identified by aerial surveys, though archaeologists have investigated barely 10% of them. Goloring near Koblenz in western Germany is a similar, if later, example. Previously archaeologists thought that the enclosures might have been fortifications and were puzzled by the fact that there was no sign of buildings inside the circles.

'Human bones with the flesh scraped off have been found inside the circle'. (3)

Archaeologists know nothing of the appearance or language of the people and can only surmise about their religious beliefs. The culture is known only as that of stroke-ornamented ceramic ware, from fragments of pottery it left. The jars and bowls had their decoration jabbed into the soft clay with a kind of fork to form zig-zag lines. The whole period of stroke-ornamented pottery is limited to 4,900 to 4,650 BC. (5)



The Goseck Henge is currently the oldest official 'Solar observatory' in the world. On the winter solstice, the sun could be seen to rise and set through the Southern gates from the centre. It has been observed that the entrances get progressively smaller the closer to the centre one gets, which would have concentrated the suns rays into a narrow path.

Being on the same latitude as Stonehenge means that 'astronomers' would have also benefitted from viewed the extremes of the sun and moon at right angles to each other. It is also sitting on one of two unique latitudes in the world at which the full moon passes directly overhead on its maximum Zeniths.

Stonehenge (and now Goseck) lies on the exact latitude at which the Midsummer Sunrise and Sunsets are at 90� of the Moons Northerly setting and Southerly rising. This particular phenomena is only possible within a band of less than one degree, of which Stonehenge (and Goseck) lies in the middle-third. (6)

(More about the Astronomy of Stonehenge)


Gallery of Images: Goseck Henge.

The fully reconstructed Goseck Henge-Circle in all its glory.

(Photo Credits: Ralf Boutragel)


   The Nebra Sky Disc:

Perhaps the observatory's most curious aspect is that the roughly 100-degree span between the solstice gates corresponds with an angle on a bronze disk unearthed on a hilltop 25 kilometres away, near the town of Nebra.

The two opposing arcs, which run along the rim of the Nebra Sky Disc, are 82.5 degrees long and mark the sun's positions at sunrise and sunset. The lowest points of the two arcs are 97.5 degrees apart, signifying sunrise and sunset on the winter solstice in central Germany at the time. Likewise, the uppermost points mark sunrise and sunset on the summer solstice. The sun's position at solstice has shifted slightly over the past millennia, notes Wolfhard Schlosser of the Ruhr University in Bochum, so that the angle between sunrise and sunset is now slightly farther apart than when the Nebra disk and the Goseck circle were made (by 1.6 and 2.8 degrees, respectively).  (4)

The 3,600-year-old bronze Nebra disc was discovered just 25 kilometres away from Goseck in the wooded region of Nebra and is considered to be the oldest concrete representation of the cosmos. The 32-centimeter disc is decorated with gold leaf symbols that clearly represent the sun, moon and starts. A cluster of seven dots has been interpreted as the Pleiades constellation as it appeared 3,600 years ago, almost 2,000 years after the Goseck Circle.

(More about the Nebra Sky-Disc)

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6). R. Heath, Sun, Moon & Stonehenge,

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