The Possible Importance of Latitude
Professor Richard Atkinson, excavator and restorer of Stonehenge in the 1950’s, has stated: ‘The position, at least of the Heel Stone and the Station Stones, and indeed the latitude of Stonehenge itself, were astronomically determined’.
The latitude of Stonehenge is 51 ̊10’42”. It is now widely accepted that this location was chosen because it fell upon the best position to observe the midwinter and midsummer risings and setting of the sun, together with the rising and setting position of the moon at its major and minor standstills, these being the limit of its travel during the 18.6 year cycle of its travel. At this latitude the equinoctial risings and settings of the sun are virtually opposite to each other so a sight line may have backsights and foresights; for example the midwinter sunset in the south west is opposite the midsummer sunrise in the north east, and the midwinter sunrise is opposite the midsummer sunset. This only applies to a relatively narrow band of some 30 miles in width at the latitude of Stonehenge. Once one goes beyond this band the opposing risings and settings do not align.
The latitude of Whitmoor Barrow is 51̊ 16’ 24.9”. This is just short of seven miles north of the latitude of Stonehenge, and within the corridor of interest. If the above is true it would seem possible that other ‘observatory’ sites might lie upon the same latitude. Certainly I have faith in my discovery of the possible midwinter sunset line, reinforced by my finding of an unknown barrow precisely on this line. There is an error of just over three degrees compared with the Stonehenge figures, which could be accounted for by the elevation of the Hog’s Back, which provides a very level and clearly visible backdrop from Whitmoor Barrow. The theodolite observation which I carried out at midwinter sunset in the 1980’s satisfied me that I was observing down the alignment towards the destroyed Hog’s Back Barrow. It would be good to check this but in the intervening years the scrub birch has grown tall and strong and it is no longer possible.
It was recently pointed out to me that the Goseck Circle bears a remarkable relationship with Stonehenge in that it is on almost the same latitude. At 51011’53.72” it is a mere 1.35 miles north, well within the band of interest discussed above. The Goseck Circle is a restored Neolithic monument in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt first discovered in 1991 from aerial photographs. It is radiocarbon dated to 4900 BC and is believed to be the oldest known solar observatory, having two entrances in the henge aligning with the winter solstice sunrise in the south east and with the winter sunset in the south west. A third entrance to due north has no known significance.
There was a time when researching the above would have been a doddle but with my advancing years I find it increasingly difficult to get my head around this stuff. If I am in error I ask that I may be put right – politely I hope!