Book Review – A Neolithic Universe by Jonathan Morris

This is, without doubt, the most totally bonkers, dazzlingly brilliant, and entirely plausible theory about the purpose of Stonehenge that I have ever read. It manages to explain every aspect of the monument — its location, orientation, construction and purpose in an entirely practical way that demonstrates how the Neolithic builders possessed sophisticated knowledge of metrology and geodesy and built the monument as a physical expression of the cosmos on earth. Jonathan Morris is an engineer who has worked on major projects such as the Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, so his hypotheses here are entirely plausible and well-reasoned.

Starting with a series of practical experiments, using simple devices like wooden water troughs and sighting poles at natural landscape viewpoints in southern England and Wales, Morris shows that it is possible to both prove that the Earth is spherical and also calculate its diameter to reasonable accuracy. Several barrows and other ancient sites that could have been used for that very purpose are referenced at his chosen locations, adding more evidence to the theory.

He goes on to demonstrate that Stonehenge can be seen as a working model of a geocentric universe – a sort of Neolithic planetarium if you will – where its location, design and construction encode its position in the cosmos with a surprising degree of sophistication and provide a teaching tool for explaining the cycle of the seasons and the nature of the world. He even convincingly explains minute details like the strange clustering of axe head carvings on particular stones as some sort of worker’s graffiti recording where they came from, or perhaps a map charting the extent of megalithic culture at the time.

With the addition of a simple wooden framework, some ropes and polished tin mirrors placed against the outer sarsens, sunlight could be focused onto a reflective disk or ball mounted on a rod that can be turned to track the sun’s progress and provide the visual spectacle of a ‘mini-sun’ floating within the stones for observers outside of the main sarsen ring.

Perhaps the most difficult concept to grasp is the use of polished tin reflectors to produce the spherical mirror effect and why we find no surviving evidence of these, but as Morris explains, tin deteriorates to dust over centuries in a cold climate, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that nothing survives. Tantalisingly, the antiquarian Stukeley mentions the find of a highly polished tin and lead disc inscribed with unknown writing that was recorded during king Henry VIII’s time but was subsequently lost.

Morris is perhaps on weaker ground when comparing words such as ‘tin’, ‘henge’, ‘angle’ and ‘stone’ in an attempt to find etymological similarities, or when interpreting various folklore myths such as that of the Grail, or the treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danaan as coded references to this device; yet the engineering principles behind his theory seem sound, and I think much, if not all, of his thesis is definitely worthy of thoughtful consideration by archaeologists and other researchers. For me, it’s definitely the most original explanation of Stonehenge that I’ve ever read.

Highly recommended.

Grahame Gardner
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2 thoughts on “Book Review – A Neolithic Universe by Jonathan Morris

  1. I had a dream many years ago that showed a stone circle that had mirrors mounted at the inside top of the stones that angled light into the centre. I thought it was an outlandish idea at the time. I still have the sketch of it that I drew, and ponder it occasionally. Reading this I am glad someone else has come to that idea from a more rational angle. Maybe my brain was not so bonkers after all!

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