In North East Scotland, near Inverness, lies Balnuaran of Clava, a group of three cairns with a unique and distinctive style, called Clava cairns; of which evidence of 80 examples have been found in that region. They are round, having an inner and outer kerb of upright stones between which are an infill of stones. They may or may not have a passageway from the outer to the inner kerb, into the round chamber within. At Balnuaran, two have passages on a shared alignment to the midwinter solstice. In contrast, the central ring cairn has no passage and it is staggered west of that shared axis.
This off-axis ring cairn could have been located to be illuminated by the midsummer sunrise from the NE Cairn, complementing the midwinter sunset to the south of the two passageways of the other cairns. Yet the primary and obvious focus for the Balnuaran complex is the midwinter sunset down the aligned passages. In fact, the ring cairn is more credibly aligned to the lunar minimum standstill of the moon to the south – an alignment which dominates the complex since, in that direction the horizon is nearly flat whilst the topography of the site otherwise suffers from raised horizons.
The old yard was almost identical to the yard of three feet, but just one hundredth part smaller at 2.87 feet. This gives its foot value as 99/100 feet, a value belonging to a module very close to the English/Greek which defines one relative to the rational ratios of the Historical modules.
So why was this foot and its yard important, in the Scottish megalithic and in later, historical monuments?
If one forms a square with side equal to the old yard, that square can be seen as containing 9 square feet, and each of those has side length 99/100 feet. This can be multiplied by the rough approximation to 1/√ 2 of 5/7 = 0.714285, to obtain a more accurate 1/√ 2 of 99/140 = 0.70714285.
Perhaps as early as 4000 BC, there was a tradition of making chalk drums. Three highly decorated examples were found in a grave dated between 2600 and 2000 BC in Folkton, northern England and one undecorated chalk drum in southern England at Lavant in an upland downs known for a henge and many other neolithic features discovered in a recent community LIDAR project. The Lavant LIDAR project and the chalk drum found there are the first two articles in PAST, the Newsletter of The Prehistoric Society. (number 83. Summer 2016.) It gives the height and radius of both the Folkton drums 15, 16 and 17 and the Lavant drum, presenting these as a graph as below.
The three henges appear to align to the three notable manifestations to the north west of the northerly moon setting at maximum standstill. The distance between northern and southern henge entrances could count 3400 days, each 5/8th of a foot (7.5 inches), enabling a “there and back again” counting of the 6800 days (18.618 solar years/ 19.618 eclipse years) between lunar maximum standstills.
Only two type-D stone circles (see figure 3) are
known to exist, called Roughtor (in Cornwall) and Seascale (in Cumbria). Seascale
is assessed below, for the potential this type of flattened circle had to
provide megalithic astronomers with a calendrical observatory. Seascale could also
have modelled the harmonic ratios of the visible outer planets relative to the
lunar year. Flattened to the north, Seascale now faces Sellafield nuclear
reprocessing plant (figure 1).
Stone Age astronomical monuments went through a
series of evolutionary phases: in Britain c. 3000 BC, stone circles became
widespread until the Late Bronze Age c. 1500 BC. These stone circles manifest
aspects of Late Stone Age art (10,000 – 4500 BC) seen in some of its geometrical
and symbolic forms, in particular as calendrical day tallies scored on bones.
In pre-literate societies, visual art takes on an objective technical function,
especially when focussed upon time and the cyclic phenomena observed within
time. The precedent for Britain’s stone circle culture is that of Brittany,
around Carnac in the south, from where Megalithic Ireland, England and Wales probably
got their own megalithic culture.
came across Rock Art and Ritual by
Brian Smith and Alan Walker, (subtitled Interpreting
the Prehistoric landscapes of the North York Moors. Stroud: History Press
2008. 38.). It tells the story: Following a wildfire of many square miles of
the North Yorkshire Moors, thought ecologically devastating, those interested
in its few decorated stones headed out to see how these antiquities had fared.
Fire had revealed many more stones carrying rock art or in organised
groups. An urgent archaeological effort would be required before the inevitable
regrowth of vegetation.
A photo of one
stone in particular attracted my attention, at a site called Stoupe Brow
(a.k.a. Brow Moor) near Fylingdales, North Yorkshire.