The Wooden Pre-Megalithic Structure
In the autumn of 1997 details emerged about a major new discovery 'under' the magnificent stone circles at Stanton Drew, approximately 30 miles from Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. A recent survey using sensitive equipment that detects minute changes in magnetic fields has uncovered the existence of a large Neolithic wooden temple complex in Ynys Prydein (Island of Britain): one that would pre-date the stone circle built on top. It also has a henge circle that could rival the one at Stonehenge, and futhermore, its construction pre-dates that of the Great Pyramid on the Giza plateau in Egypt by at least four centuries.
Made up of nine concentric circles of wooden postholes, this monument in a north Somerset field was regarded in 1997 as being the largest Neolithic temple yet discovered. Its detection, using geomagnetic equipment which can trace small magnetic anomalies beneath the ground without disturbing the surface, reinforces the theory that large wooden structures pre-dated the many megalithic stone circles that are to be found in all areas of northwestern Europe along the Atlantic coast, and much further afield as well.
The story of the new discovery at Stanton Drew stone circle first appeared in The Times of London on November 11 1997, and Geoffrey Wainwright, the chief archŠologist at English Heritage, who were in charge of what was just a routine survey, told that newspaper:
"To our surprise and delight what emerged was a timber temple of about 3000 BC. There is now no timber left - it would have decayed long ago. But the disturbance of the soil when the pits were dug to to take the uprights shows clearly.
Andrew David, head of archaeometry at English Heritage, estimates that there would have been between 400 and 500 oak uprights making up the nine rings. Each would have weighed five tons or more, nearly as much as the stones at Stonehenge." 
There is an opening in the henge circle to the north-east in the direction of the midsummer sunrise, though no outlying stone marking that event has been found. Neither is there any evidence of a single post-hole which might once have marked that event with a wooden pole. The archŠological community are excited by the find, and speculation is rife as to it's role in the ancient science of that area 5,000 years ago. The survey at Stanton Drew was carried out by English Heritage whose own website gives full details of the geomagnetic survey.
The Sunday Telegraph on November 16 1997, in an article which detailed the work in this area of Dr Duncan Steel, then of Spaceguard Australia, reported that his analysis of the Taurid meteorite showers suggested the break up of a cometary fragment happened at the same time as neolithic structures like Stonehenge first started to appear:
"Indeed, this new role for the henges seems to fit in well with abroad theory about cosmic impacts advocated by a number of British astronomers. This suggest that around 20,000 years ago a giant comet entered the solar system and began disintergating, leaving a debris-strewn orbit into which the Earth periodically blunders.
Most of the time, the only visible sign of our passage through this debris is a slight increase in the numbers of 'shooting stars' emerging from the constellation Taurus during June and November. But every so often, the Earth runs into a much denser part of the debris - triggering an apocalyptic storm of impacts and devastation".
Steel believes that the ancient peoples of Ynys Prydein, desiring to predict when the Earth's orbit passed through this trail of cosmic debris, built these observatories so that 'shooting-star' activity originating in this north-east direction would give advance warning of Taurid meteorites bombarding the Earth. Importantly for our understanding of the possible initial purpose of Stonehenge, and especially the role played by the opening in both the 'henge' and the outlying 'Heel Stone' that appear to have marked the direction of the Summer Sosltice sunrise in the late 4th millennium BC, The Sunday Telegraph further reported that:
"By 3,100 BC the trail would have risen in the north-east, slightly to the north of the Sun in early July - which is precisely the orientation and date of the earliest constructions at Stonehenge. So how does one explain the famous link between the henges and the summer solstice? Dr Steel believes this is something of a red herring, an accidental coincidence between the point of the rising mid-summer sun 5,000-odd years ago and the comet debris trail as it cuts across the Earth's orbit." 
Only in the last few years have magnetometers sensitive enough to detect the very minute changes in the magnetism of the soil when it has been disturbed become available to archŠologists, and their use now could well bring a rash of new discoveries regarding the existence of an exact wooden science predating the megalithic science which has left us these great stone monuments in various areas around the world.
The sequence of stages in the development of a 'prehistoric star science' could well be simply that (a) the earthen henge circles were the first structures built by the survivors of devasted ancient communities as 'basic indicators' for the observation for specific meteorite storms; (b) as those recovering societies began to observe ever more complex celestial phenomena, the wooden henges were then built; and (c) the remnants of the stone circles we see today would have been constructed much later, using an increasingly precise megalithic science, as astronomical observations developed to a much higher degree.
Exactly when this 'star science' deteriorated into a 'religion of sky gods', and what events led to religious 'rituals' replacing the original 'scientific usage' of these ancient monuments, is an area that provides great scope for research. One theory which is gaining in acceptance has been put forward by astro-physicists, Victor Clube and Bill Napier:
"A survey of the theories of comets through the medieval and classical periods shows a clear development of attempts to describe their behaviour in rational, materialistic terms. It would appear that these attempts started with Greek philosophers as a reaction to explanations involving supernatural behaviour ... The conclusion is reached that comets were for the most part treated as celestial deities in prehistoric times; and the principal reason why the ancient records of Egypt and Babylonia carry so little information about comets is that, being regarded as gods, they were the subject of worship rather than objective analysis." 
This line of argument has been taken up in the last decade or so by other scientists, many of whom have been reviewing the various stories about 'celestial battles between the gods' that are to be found in ancient mythology. Increasingly they are concluding that such stories are so widespread, and so similar in basic nature, that they almost all refer to a disintegrating giant comet whose fragments periodically bombarded the Earth in prehistoric times:
"As it happens, comets were not seen as objects subject to the control of deterministic physical law but as benign or malignant being with minds of their own, and as such, they were not incapable of influencing the minds of men on Earth below. Indeed, they inspired great terror since man was conscious of the disasters they caused. It may well be therefore that the polytheistic origins of many modern religions relate to primitive beliefs about comets. This enables us to place the facts about mythology in a new light and it is concluded that many myths have a common core reflecting world-wide observations of a large active short-period comet. The genealogy of the gods is interpreted as a history of fragmentation." 
The Morien Institute takes the simple view that these 'temporary celestial phenomena' were far more important to ancient peoples than has been previously appreciated, and that the desire for accurate observation of these terrifying meteorite storms quite probably provided the main motivation for the construction of these monuments. And it would appear that it was not only the various 'henge monuments' that might have played a role in the prediction of bombardments by cometary debris in prehistoric times. The constellation of Taurus rose above the Uffington White Horse during this period, and we believe that the 'Taurid radiant' may well have risen directly over the 'sculpted artificial horizon' on the otherwise natural hillock known as 'Dragon Hill', which is close to the geoglyph that some archŠologists believe was designed to represent the 'bull' of Taurus rather than a 'horse'.
The researches of various scientists during the 20th century have led to the now almost uncontested acceptance that the prehistoric skies, which were dominated by the violent fragmentation of a giant comet in our solar system, pre-occupied ancient peoples worldwide. It may not only explain the motivation of the megalith builders in simple, practical, survival terms, but may also indicate just how well ancient peoples were oriented in time and space.
Almost certainly the fear of further cosmic impacts would have been more than enough to ensure the co-operation of all survivors of past bombardment episodes in the enormous task of building monuments designed as 'early-warning' observatories for the prediction of imminent further impacts. Given that astronomers now believe major episodes of bombardment by cometary debris occurred during the late 4th millennium BC, something that is confirmed by the dendrochronology (tree-ring) records, the wooden 'temple' discovered at Stanton Drew may well have been amongst the first of such monuments to have been built ...
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