Durrington Walls and its massive circle of Pits

Recent analysis of animal bones within Durrington Walls indicated, to the archaeologists involved, that people had travelled there from all over the British mainland, along with animals then eaten inside the henge[1]. But what would these people be doing there? It had earlier been suggested that an elite responsible for building Stonehenge lived in a wooden roundhouse within the henge ([2] see figure 1). So, people may have come from elsewhere to help the building works now found between Stonehenge and Avebury.

Figure 1 Reconstruction of the likely roundhouses within the Durrington henge, based on post-hole evidence [2]

More recently, pits have been found [3] within a circular strip that I notice lies between 3168 feet and 4038 feet from Durrington Walls, a boundary 864 feet wide. The pits may contain the material remains of the building elite and perhaps of those workers who died, functioning like nearby barrows but vertically.

This post aims to explain why this might have been done according to a significant geometrical pattern. In the megalithic, numbers played an active role and this perhaps inspired the myth of Atlantis recorded by Plato – the classical Greek writer who transmitted the ancient notion that numbers had a causative role in forming the “world soul”, rather than our usage for number: a means to quantify things within civilized societies or laws of nature.

The recent announcement of twenty five-meter pits (in a concentric ring around Durrington) gave a diameter for the ring of pits as 1.2 English miles (6336 English feet) which is twice 3168 a number quite familiar to me. In fact, except for one pit to the west, the pits are to be found beyond a circle radius 3168 feet (and hence diameter 6336 feet). And while the northern pits form an arc, the southern ones appear less regular.

Figure 2 The map published by the Stonehenge Riverside Project showing the discovered pits [3]. The circles, arrows and numerical captions have all been added. Stonehenge is out of the frame, bottom left, two further miles away.

The number 3168 is associated with an ancient geometrical model (of equal perimeters), re-discovered by the late John Michell in the last century. This unique geometry “squares the circle” in terms of having a square equal in perimeter to a circle, providing that pi is taken to be its accurate approximation of 22/7, the value most commonly assumed in, for example, dynastic Egyptian works. Michell found the number 3168 naturally associated with the length of those two equal perimeters (the square and circle) which directly arise from there being two concentric circles radius 11 and 14. He also found this geometry within the two outer rings of Stonehenge, implying this model was deliberately being used at Stonehenge.

Figure 3 left: The Model of Equal Perimeter [4] and
right: its relatedness to the outer rings of Stonehenge [fig. 6 of ref. 5, drawn by John Michell]

The megalithic, and later traditions for the building of sacred spaces, are found to have sought-by-design, boundaries for sacred spaces and buildings that were numerically similar to this number 3168, in whatever units of measure they were using for their construction; at Stonehenge the English foot. For example, the outer ring of lintels at Stonehenge (sitting above the Sarsen circle) had a mean circumference of 316.8 feet, one tenth of 3168. The bluestone ring within the Sarsen Stones was thought by Michell to have a diameter of 79.2 feet – another special number belonging to the geometry of Equal Perimeter  – a number one quarter of the 316.8 foot circumference of the Lintel ring (see right of figure 3).

If we take one quarter of 3168 feet (the distance from the centre of the henge of the western pit) this is 792 feet, the radius of Durrington’s outer bank (see fig. 4 (right)). It would seem the nearest pit was placed 3168 feet west, so as to be numerically related to both the Durrington henge and Stonehenge. Were one to place Stonehenge at the centre of the henge, then its bluestone ring would be 1/40th of the distance of the nearest pit. If one multiplies the mean radius of its lintel ring (of 100.8 feet) by 40 then a circle radius 4032 results and all of the pits currently discovered are exactly to be found in between these two limits, within a concentric strip of width 864 feet. This might have been intended. The pits were perhaps limited to falling within a concentric strip 40 times larger than the two outer rings of the Stonehenge monument, but centered upon the Durrington henge and this may have held a specific meaning known to Plato.

Figure 4 left: A simple public diagram of Durrington Walls [titles added], its associated monument Woodhenge and relationship to the River Avon.
right: The geometrical pattern of equal perimeters and lengths numerically similar to 3168 emerging from two commensurate circles whose diameters {11 14} mimic pi as 22/7 and whose difference {3} describes the ditch of Woodhenge.

In John Michell’s work on this ancient geometry, this concentric strip (an annular ring) was considered the origin for a Platonic cosmological region called the Sublunary World, since

  1. the overall model is then seen as a circle and out-square 7920 (now 11 times 720) units across, quite accurately representing the diameter of the mean earth (7917 miles). Each unit then represents one mile. In Stonehenge, the units are one foot equalling 100 miles
  2. An outer circle, 14/11 (re. pi) of the inner circle then has diameter 10080 units and circumference 31680 units.
  3. The difference between the two radii is then 1080 units which, in miles, is the radius of the Moon.
  4. This radius reveals the true ratio between the sizes of the mean earth and the Moon as eleven to three (11/3), the Earth’s 11 units to the Moon’s 3 units, being 720 miles.
  5. The centre of the Moon, as a circle diameter 3, can then be seen to “orbit” the earth on the outer circle.
Figure 5 The Model of Equal Perimeters as a cosmological model of the Earth and Moon [4].

This kind of cosmological model seems to have been in use by the builders of Stonehenge and, if they were living at Durrington henge, the pits may have been meaningfully placed according to this model, in the annular ring associated with the sublunary world (figure 5), then of a diameter equalling seven units (4 + 1 + 4) of 792 feet in diameter, a model of the annular ring between the bluestones and the lintels but 40 times larger.

My brother has a complementary analysis of the likely geometry of the existing pits, as being a variation of a megalithic extended circle, called an egg by Alexander Thom.

For some time, archaeologists working on megalithic sites in Britain have been seeking to find meanings lying behind the monuments and, influenced by the presence in some cases of human and material burials, see organisations of space between dual notions such as light and dark, life and death, the sky above and landscape below. The annulus of the sublunary world, having a historical basis within Plato’s dialogues, could well be the chosen form for burial around sacred buildings as is seen with churches. A measured proximity to a sacred construction such as a henge, may have offered sanctuary in a less than imaginary way. And the presence of compatible numerical factors at Stonehenge and the Durrington henge, associated with the equal perimeter model and its cosmological scope, may reveal something about the intellectual life of the builders of megaliths; some of whose traditions we must have inherited as sacred numbers, calendars and units of measure.


  1. Feeding Stonehenge: Feasting in Late Neolithic Britain by Parker-Pearson et al. available at https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Plan-of-Durrington-Walls-and-Woodhenge-drawn-by-Mark-Dover_fig7_283463600
  2. Euan MacKie, in his Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain, identified Durrington Walls as the probable headquarters of the building works including Stonehenge. See chapter 7, Durrington Walls: A Late Neolithic Ceremonial Centre
  3. Astonishing discovery’ near Stonehenge led by University of Bradford archaeologists offers new insight into Neolithic ancestors and
    A Massive, Late Neolithic Pit Structure associated with Durrington Walls Henge:
    Figure 8 used in our figure 2.
  4. Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, chapter 8 and
    Sacred Number and the Origins of Civilization
    , chapter 4.
  5. John Michell’s Dimensions of Paradise figure 6