Recent laser scanning provides strong evidence the Stonehenge builders made great efforts to enhance the view of the midwinter solstice sunset for those approaching along the Avenue from the north east. The largest, most uniform uprights were put there and surfaces facing that way were finely dressed.

According to Professor Clive Ruggles the effect would have been especially powerful at the two times of year when sunlight shone along the alignment and those approaching along The Avenue  had “the midsummer rising sun behind or the midwinter setting sun ahead”. It’s noteworthy he spoke of the rising midsummer sun behind the observers. There’s no clear evidence  for a wish to observe it ahead, i.e. from the south west or interior – there’s no S-W Avenue, no large stones in that sector and no finely worked surfaces facing that way.

So, evidence and experts are suggesting the builders intended the midsummer sunrise to be viewed from The Avenue – with the sun rising behind you and it’s rays illuminating the deliberately smoothed surfaces of the stones facing you – and perhaps casting shadows and a shaft of light onto and into the monument?

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director at English Heritage, has said: “The new presentation of Stonehenge will enable visitors to appreciate the importance of the solstitial alignment far better. It’s why we are closing the A344 – which severs the alignment – to enable the stone circle to be reunited with the Avenue.” It would seem that English Heritage’s own laser survey has now lent even more importance to closure of the A344 for it may well be saying that the most auspicious spot for observing both solstices, and therefore the key few yards in the minds of the builders is right in the middle of the road!

So it now seems any mass solstice gathering with authenticity and respect as its primary aims  should take place on The Avenue rather than elsewhere, including inside the circle. The removal of the road and fences is imminent so once that happens there will presumably be neither spiritual nor physical nor curatorial justification for not changing the celebration to conform with the evidence.


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