National Geographic : 1960 Jun
Greek architect's hallmark? Dagger carving on a: sen invites speculation that an immigrant from Aeg lands or a Briton who had traveled there designed Stc henge. Like Greek columns, some pillars bulge to o, come the illusion of concavity. Carvings to right below the dagger resemble bronze axheads of Irek Roman letters date from modern times. masonry. What more natural for them than to crown their pillars with a timber ceiling? The weather of 40 centuries ago was probably quite as English as it is today! About 2 a.m., as the wind came whistling through the archways, Bob and I could cer tainly appreciate the need for shelter. In fact, I retreated finally to our car and its heater, leaving Bob huddled on the Altar Stone in the lee of two large fallen columns. A pajama top wound around his head served as a turban and the pants as a scarf. He had brought his recorder, and I could hear occasionally, rising above the gray ruins, the thin, flutelike notes of a folk song. Left to myself, I was free to speculate upon the old questions of who had built Stonehenge, and when-questions which are, of course, inseparable. Perhaps the most celebrated guess to come along was that of the astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer, in 1901. Assuming that Stonehenge had been deliberately laid out so that its axis pointed toward the sun on the horizon at the summer solstice, and knowing that the sun's position at this point varies 860 HAROLDE. EDGERTON Possible model for the dagger comes from ruins of Mycenae, where warriors carried similar weapons about 1500 B.C. My cenaens in those times were rais ing palaces, while Britons were dragging slabs to Stonehenge. from year to year, Lockyer's calculations in dicated that the last time the solstice sun would have come up at just that spot was 1840 B.C., give or take some 200 years. This was, admittedly, little more than an educated hunch, for the ancients who laid out Stonehenge relied on the naked eye, not precise surveying instruments. Their line of sight could have deviated enough from Lock yer's to create an error of hundreds of years in his calculations. Further, we do not know which moment the builders regarded as sun rise; a wrong guess here could throw the estimate off by several millenniums. Nevertheless, Lockyer's date gained star tling support half a century later when Prof. Stuart Piggott, Prof. R. J. C. Atkinson, and Dr. J. F. S. Stone dug up some charcoal from one of the Aubrey Holes and submitted it to carbon analysis. Measuring the radioactivity that still resided in its carbon-14 molecules, Dr. W. F. Libby of the University of Chicago was able to give the lump a remarkably co inciding date of 1848 B.C., plus or minus 275 years.