Was Stonehenge originally a roofed temple?
Because we are so accustomed to seeing Stonehenge as free standing monoliths, British Architect, Sara Ewbank’s theory seems “off the wall” – but there is actually logic to her ideas. While Ewbank was working on her models of Stonehenge in Gloucestershire (southwestern UK) British archaeologists announced the discovery that part of Stonehenge was originally built in Wales, then dismantled and transported 160 miles stone by stone to the Salisbury Plain.
What does this have to do with Native American architecture? For the past 25 years, Dr. Gordon Freeman of the University of Alberta has been building up impressive archaeological evidence that originally a people, kin to modern indigenous Americans, lived on both sides of the North Atlantic. The first stone stonehenges were in Canada then appeared 500 years later in the British Isles.
Three years ago, Freeman unknowningly obtained substantial evidence of a North American-British Isle connection in the same archaeological zone in Wales, where archaeologists later found the original location of a stonehenge, containing THE STONEHENGE’S bluestones. This fact should give all skeptics a pause for thought.
In a recent POOF article about a 5,200 year old temple complex on Edisto Island, South Carolina, it was mentioned that around 2345 BC, a catastrophic 20 year long rain storm began, which virtually depopulated Ireland and Britain. Immediately thereafter, pottery and circular shrines built of shells appeared on the South Atlantic Coast.
The Great Flood could be when most Asiatic Europeans paddled westward to the Americas. However, the last emigrations from Ireland of black haired, bronze skinned peoples, occurred around 1200 BC during a period of massive volcanic eruptions in Europe and again around 500 BC, when Iron Age Celts invaded Ireland.
Stonehenge, the Fig Island Shrine on Edisto Island, SC and the triangular quarried-stone temple at Nodoroc in Metro Atlanta were all constructed in the same time period. This is significant. An ancient stone quarry has recently been found near Track Rock Gap in Georgia with the same “cross marks” as seen on the Nodoroc building stones.
Founding POOF member, Edna Dixon, has sent us an intriguing newspaper article from the Salisbury Journal in the United Kingdom. It describes a radical new theory, which explains many unexplained mysteries about Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain. Architect Sarah Ewbank theorizes that what we see today at Stonehenge was merely the structure of the first floor of a temple.
I looked up more detailed article in a British architectural journal and quickly realized that Ms. Ewbank had based her theories on very sound structural engineering principals. She has made several valid observations, which have been overlooked by antiquarians and archaeologists for centuries. The newspaper article, as typical of mass media today, left out some important information. Here is how she personally explains her theories:
“My interest in Stonehenge was born from a knowledge that archaeologists, by nature of their preoccupation with digging, where missing ‘what’s not there’; you can’t find something that no longer exists. My designer’s mind visualized Stonehenge as the ruined remains of a bigger structure – a huge building. This proposal does not discount other theories of purposes. Over 4000 years of history have passed since Stonehenge stood in the current ‘stone-only’ form.”
“In February 2015, a gap in my work program allowed time for research. The patterns I saw fueled this project. The ‘two arcs’ led to a setting-out plan that defines a Bronze–age unit of measurement (a ‘baunt’). The ‘four equally-spaced lines’ produced the oval, and subsequently the built form. Both were evident within minutes of placing the survey on my drawing board.”
“Over the past year I’ve made two models, one at 1:100 and a second at 1:50 scale, then drawn and sketched until confident that Stonehenge’s original form, as presented, is about right. Ideas that did not fit were rapidly dropped; various happy coincidences that occurred during modelling confirm the finished form. The complete building, shown on these web-pages, needs minor refinement only. Every detail fits perfectly with both sarsen and bluestone positions. The fact that the core-roof is trussed explains the mystery of why the trilithons are different heights.”
“I believe some of our Bronze-age ancestors were as capable as people alive today; we don’t imagine a horse or cat forebears were any less intelligent. To suggest ancient folk were less bright is unfathomable. Even today inventions in advanced technology come from few intelligent, curious and driven people; most of us are only users of other people’s inventions and designs.”
“Among the Bronze-age people was a remarkable designer with excellent three-dimensional vision who understood geometry. The brief was probably for a round building of large capacity, involving the number three and it’s multiples. He or she was good! Interestingly fire-proofing has been well-considered – perhaps the previous building burnt to the ground.”
“I believe that Stonehenge was a ‘Cathedral-like’ building with a massive oak-framed roof, and a huge hall at it’s center. Though only the big stones remain, location and height provide evidence to indicate the original shape.”
“Viewed from outside, it’s round form and thatched roof were of refined Bronze-Age form. A magestic, trussed core-roof, spanning the central void, was supported high on top of the large central stones, the trilthons.”
“Beneath this was a lofty oval hall. Leaning against this structural core were radiating rafters with their lower end on the stone circle. The central ‘core-roof’ is key to the design’s structural integrity; without this the weight of the roof would force the stone-circle outwards. Large openings, set high up on both ends, flooded the hall with light. Shuttered side openings were used in daytime.”
“Location of the central Bluestones suggest galleries surrounded the central void. Between the trilithons and ring of Sarsen stones, blue-stones here hint that a circular wall once enclosed the hall. A useful veranda-walkway thus existed in the space between the enclosing wall, and the outer sarsen-ring.”
“A large, ceremonial entrance also supported a roof gable. Thus axial openings existed to connect with both summer and winter solstices. However these are but moments in time. Such a magnificent, galleried hall was likely used all-year-round, for social gatherings, singing, feasting and dancing, maybe marriage ceremonies.”
Critique by a Historic Preservation Architect
Sarah Ewbank’s interpretation of Stonehenge as resembling an Early Medieval Templar Church is highly improbable, but her evidence that Stonehenge originally had a roof is highly persuasive.
First of all, Ms. Ewbank described Stonehenge as a Bronze Age structure. It really should not be equaled to the elaborate Bronze Age structures in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, built about they same time. The original timbers structures on the Salisbury Plain and “bluestone” structures in Wales was erected around 3100 BC – 3000 BC . . . during the Neolithic Period. Its builders did NOT have metal tools.
The Welsh blue stones were re-assembled on the Salisbury Plain into a circle about 2400-2100 BC. This was the absolute dawn of the Bronze Age in Britain. Most masonry work was still done with fire and stone tools. Numerous alterations occurred at Stonehenge over the next 500 years. During this period, bronze tools became increasingly sophisticated and plentiful. However, bronze was always a luxury item in Europe.
The surviving architecture of Stonehenge does not provide physical evidence to back up Sarah Ewbank’s drawings of the wooden arches, supporting the second floor and timber rafters . Timber arches first appeared in England in the mid-600s AD as Anglo-Saxon craftsmen attempted to adapt Roman stone arches in Continental churches to their heavy timber architectural tradition. One would expect the stone piers to reflect the same aesthetic precision of her timberwork, but in fact, they are only crudely worked into approximate rectangles.
The Norman arches in Ewbank’s model are the most improbable architectural detail of all. Norman arches were not introduced into England until the Norman Conquest (1066 AD) and were not a staple feature of Anglo-Norman architecture until the next century.
The arched clerestories that Ewbank placed on the roof of her Stonehenge appeared in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian buildings in the period between 800 AD and 1400 AD. They was derived from the wooden arches constructed in early Anglo-Saxon churches.
It is far more likely that Stonehenge strongly resembled a Creek chokopa (chokufa in Oklahoma). In 2008, the Muscogee-Creek Nation hired me to carry out a structural analysis of the rotunda at Ocmulgee National Monument in order to persuade Southeastern archaeologists to stop calling our chokopas or rotundas, “earth lodges.” Even the famous archaeologist, Lewis Larsen, had written an article in a professional journal, which also tried to stop the practice . . . to no avail. The Ocmulgee “Earth Lodge” had first been labeled that by 23 year old James Ford, who at the time only had three years of undergraduate, Liberal Arts education. The archaeologists also ignored my drawings and continued on their errant way.
My gut feeling? Both Stonehenge and the shrine on Edisto Island, SC were originally erected as monuments that celebrated the builders’ survival in the Great Flood of the 24th century BC that depopulated Ireland and much of Britain.
Link to the article on Sarah Ewbank in the Salisbury Journal:
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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