In the attic of Redfellow Hovel is a copy of Gerald Hawkins and J.B.White’s Stonehenge Decoded.
Hawkins, back in 1963, had cranked up the brand-spanking-new Harvard-Smithsonian IBM 7090 computer and analysed near fourteen dozen celestial alignments for Stonehenge. Much of Hawkins’ work was, and remains, mired in academic controversy — though the book is still in print, and his literary heirs are collecting the royalties for another six decades.
What is indisputable is that any summer solstice alignment — the one that packs ’em in each year — is a fiction derived from William Stukeley in the early eighteenth century. The time to be there would be the mid-winter solstice — as at Maes Howe, Brú na Bóinne and umpteen other locations.
After all, even a primitive agriculturalist could see when her crops were ripe. Calculating mid-winter, and then counting forward to the planting season involved something like a calendar. And building one got the men-folk out of the house and from under her feet.
And now for the pigs’ teeth
A couple of miles north of Stonehenge, in the parish of Durrington, teams, directed by Sheffield University’s Mike Parker Pearson, have excavated a huge woodhenge complex, which may well be one of northern Europe’s largest Neolithic communities. This has turned up a remarkable quantity of pigs teeth.
Step forward the prolific swine-expert, Dr Umberto Albarella, and take a bow.
What Albarella did was look at the patterns of wear on those pigs’ teeth. The conclusion was that the main slaughter had been done in winter.
Which goes to show that the Christmas or Yule debauch goes back far, far further than we may have thought. And that Stonehenge was a mid-winter resort.