Archaeologists have also found evidence of a sacred procession associated with an annual rite to the north of Stonehenge. The new evidence is shedding light on the prehistoric origins of Stonehenge as a sacred site.
A recent archaeological survey around Stonehenge has been using geophysical investigative methods such as ground-penetrating radar to map a major prehistoric enclosure called the "Cursus." In their investigation, the researchers discovered two large pits, one at the eastern and the other at the western end.
reports that computer models of the relative orientation of the pits and Stonehenge showed that when viewed from the "Heel Stone," the pits were aligned on the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice) with sunrise and sunset.
Based on comparative studies of ancient religious customs in many other parts of the world involving ceremonial processions, the experts have speculated that a ritual procession might have been enacted in which the perimeter of the "Cursus" between the two pits was traversed. The speculation seemed confirmed by the discovery that the midway point between the pits (i.e. the noon point between sunrise and sunset) aligned directly with the center of the Stonehenge. That is, the sun, at its highest midday point at Summer Solstice, aligned with the center of the Stonehenge. This observation explains why Stonehenge is a sacred site. Apparently, this midday point of alignment as viewed from the "Heel Stone," had special significance to the sun worship cult at Stonehenge.
Another major significance of the find is that it changes, significantly, the accepted chronology of Stonehenge. Archaeologists have for long believed that the "Cursus" is older than Stonehenge by at least 500 years. But now that now the significance of the Stonehenge site as the point of midday alignment of the sun at Summer Solstice is known, this assumption, according Birmingham archaeologist Dr. Henry Chapman, who ran the computer model reconstruction of the site and its environs, must be reviewed to conclude that the site of the Stonehenge predated the Cursus. The conclusion is necessary because the construction of the "procession path" must have been centered on the Stonehenge itself, implying that the Heel Stone location had special ritual significance to the builders of Stonehenge before the Cursus pits were dug.
Archaeologists concluded, therefore, that the Stones were erected to mark a site that had been sacred to the worshipers for a long time. This realization is significant, archaeologists say, because it suggests a time continuity between the 8,000 BC Mesolithic ritual site that is now Stonehenge's car park and the Stonehenge itself which is five thousand years younger. This being a possibility archaeologists had previously not favored.
The new evidence, in short, suggests a link between Stonehenge sun worship and prehistoric sun worship.
Archaeologists are proceeding with detailed study of the site and they plan to do a thorough geophysical study of the site in a five square mile area to a depth of at least two meters in the next two years.