Organizing Ideas about Prehistory

For any activity to have a purpose there needs to be an organizing idea behind it and, in interpreting megalithic sites, many (often-competing) organizing ideas have been at work.

Archaeology has adopted different modus operandi over time, sometimes defining a new movement for the profession such as processual (New) and then post-processual (1980’s), and other specific ideas responding to changes in technology such as carbon dating or extrapolations of anthropological modalities expected for stone age peoples.

Ever since the rise of modern archaeology during the nineteenth century, the field has been in a perpetual identity crisis about its primary purpose. Archaeologists have never entirely agreed among themselves about what they are doing and why they are doing it. “What in fact is archaeology? I do not myself really know,” Mortimer Wheeler admitted in Archaeology from the Earth… [However] Most archaeologists would agree with one of Wheeler’s most eloquent statements: “The archaeologist is digging up, not things, but people.”

The Goddess and the Bull, Michael Balter, Free Press, 2005, p60

A problem arises that our sciences are divided into natural and social sciences – two quite different skillsets between which academic degrees are usually in one or the other, a segregation widely enforced by the vicissitudes of secondary school timetabling; after which one becomes an arts or sciences person. This makes recruitment difficult, especially as the technology used to study sites has become quite dominant and specialist. Changes in how archaeology is funded and increasingly presented to the public, as significant, exciting, and worthy of funding, broadens the types of role an existing archaeologist might have to adapt to.

The overriding rubric adopted for archaeology is that of “being scientific”, or at least evidence-based; yet many current assertions by archaeologists about the megalithic monuments or the culture behind them are non-evidential, sometimes conceptual instead (such as, that the sites are about life, death and burial “tombs”) or anthropological (there were healing stones or sacrificial rituals for which scant evidence exists). On the evidence side, carbon and other dating methods can locate sites in time, along with stratification of layers, and finds, some dateable.

The contradiction between concrete evidence and general lack of meaningful cultural inferences based on evidence is especially clear on television where a consensual crust of agreed beliefs about what sites can mean builds up and if the same story is repeated often enough, such as “the sacred space was divided into the living and the dead” [Pearson], or that “stone circles were flattened to facilitate a screen behind which an audience could watch the rituals” [Ruggles], these are clearly non-evidential proposals that can become normative and unquestioned.

I believe the reason why sites can’t be interpreted, to reveal their true purpose, lies in the artificial limits which grew up during the 20th century, in which the role of geometry, the evidence for counted units of length, and the alignments to astronomical events on the horizon were, for a few decades at least, permitted to enter peer-reviewed archaeology – from outside the profession. This was when engineers such as Alexander Thom (who surveyed British sites) and astronomers such as Lockyer, Hoyle, and Hawkins (analyzing Stonehenge in particular) got involved in site interpretation, based upon their primary function as astronomical observatories.

However, this new astronomical way of studying megaliths was not really compatible with the “standard model” of history and prehistory, in which all of our exact sciences, such as astronomy, measurement, numeracy and geometry were invented by civilizations of the late Neolithic: Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece, who invented them. This relationship between ancient civilized history and an uncivilized prehistory in large part defines the Foundation Myth of Western civilization in which there is proposed continuity from the early civilizations, so that proposals involving a megalithic astronomy involving exact measurements before 3000BC conflicts with the organizing idea of an Archaeology in service to our foundational self-image of human-progress-through-civilization.

That is, Science goes through a set of stages in which new organizing ideas are rejected until some sort of change in world view called, by Thomas Kuhn, a shifting of Paradigm. Otherwise a contending organizing idea is roundly rejected and it becomes “damned” for a generation or more, as Charles Fort described in his Book of the Damned.


The situation for astronomical interpretation of megalithic sites is not so tragic in the New World (as per the work of Anthony Aveni) as it is in Britain and Brittany, where there is no easy way to integrate astronomical, metrological and geometrical discoveries until old men retire and new archaeologists can, with care, review the astronomical option and think new thoughts of an astro-archaeology, both ancient and modern.

My point here is to highlight: almost everything I propose on this website is currently not acceptable but alongside that I would say archaeology is not currently capable of refuting the general thrust of my proposal; that numbers played a significant role in human history because of a prehistory in which the purpose of megalithic observatories was to count time as length and compare celestial time periods to evolve the later traditions in which numbers were considered sacred, by the ancient civilizations. This has religious and spiritual ramifications since the geocentric sky of earth reveals clear evidence of an organizing principle in how the planets and moon express musical intervals, Fibonacci numbers and other resonances, these not noted or explainable through the current paradigm; that world laws alone created an arbitrary and accidental solar system: which is the organizing idea for mainstream science and the culture at large.

There was obviously a geometrical morphology at work at Carnac,
relating to horizon events of the sun and moon.

A following post (to be linked) will look at how my own work has slowly changed its own central organizing idea, leading to the writing of books from different perspectives. My ideas on the megalithic, as fundamentally astronomical, can be read in Sacred Number and the Lords of Time (2014). The continuity of megalithic traditions into the buildings of the Ancient world can be read within Sacred Geometry: Language of the Angels (2021).

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