King Arthur and Stonehenge

Sunrise at Stonehenge, William Giles (1872 -1939)

Arthur is squire to the arrogant Kay, son of Arthur’s foster father Ector, and the boy is shocked to learn that he has forgotten Kay’s weapons. Much to his relief, he sees a sword and wants to get it for Kay. Effortlessly he pulls it out of the stone…

That’s how my previous article started, but the rest of this story isn’t a repeat. Now that young Arthur has the sword in his hands, an incredible adventure begins. The populace recognized that Arthur was the rightful king. The boy himself did not know that he was the son of Uther Penragon and Igraine. Arthur’s father had disguised himself as Igraine’s husband, with the help of the wizard Merlin, and thus came into bed with her.

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Uther Pendragon fathered Arthur at Igraine, c. 1285

In my previous article I went into the stories of King Arthur and megaliths associated with him. Did you miss this article? Then you can read it here: king arthur and megaliths. It is important to note that there was a long history prior to the birth of Arthur. It even begins in Greece, the departure from Troy. I don’t want to go that far back in this article. We remain in what is now Great Britain. A well-known megalithic edifice is associated with King Arthur’s father and the wizard Merlin, and I want to talk about that in this article. I think everyone knows this building: Stonehenge.

These are turbulent times, an enormous battle is being fought. Merlin predicts the arrival of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther. On arrival in the area, Aurelius Ambrosius is immediately appointed king. An enormous number of men have died in an insidious manner.

The fifth-century king Aurelius Ambrosius wanted to build a large memorial to the British Celtic nobles killed by the Saxons at Salisbury.

Merlin advised him to use the Giant Ring. The king ordered his brother Uther and Merlin, along with 15,000 men, to get the edifice from Ireland. They defeated an Irish army led by Gillomanius, but were unable to move the huge stones.

With Merlin’s help, they transported the stones to Britain and re-erected them as they had stood.

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The oldest known depiction of Stonehenge, from the second quarter of the 14th century. A giant helps Merlin to build Stonehenge. From a manuscript of the Roman de Brut by Wace in the British Library

According to the story, the stones of Stonehenge were healing stones, which giants brought from Africa to Ireland. They were placed on Mount Killaraus to form a stone circle known as the “Giant’s Ring” or “Giant’s Round” (“Giant Circle”).

The twelfth-century “Historia Regum Britanniae” (“History of the Kings of Great Britain”) by Geoffrey of Monmouth tells of how Stonehenge was taken from Ireland with the help of the wizard Merlin. Geoffrey’s story spread widely. There are variants of the story in adaptations of his work, such as Wace’s Norman-French “Roman de Brut”, Layamon’s Middle English “Brut” (also known as “The Chronicle of Britain”) and the Welsh “Brut y Brenhinedd” (“Chronicle of the Kings”).

Uther would thus be responsible for the construction of Stonehenge, aided by the wizard Merlin and at the behest of his brother. Perhaps the first name Uther has the same origin as Arthur.

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Uther Pendragon, first half 13th century

Aurelius Ambrosius is poisoned by Eapa. The king is buried within Stonehenge. At his death, a comet appears three times, after which Uther calls himself Pendragon: Leader of the Dragons. In French Arthur’s father is called ‘Uterpendragon’ or ‘Utependragon’, in Welsh ‘Uthyr Pendragon’ and in Irish ‘Iubhair’.

Uther defeats Octa and Eosa, but is poisoned along with a hundred others when they drink water from a clear fountain. Then he too, alongside his brother Aurelius Ambrosius, is buried within Stonehenge. Arthur succeeds him much later as king of the Britons, after drawing his father’s sword from a stone.

British prehistory expert at University College London, Mike Parker Pearson, says the story may contain a “grain of truth.” The sandstone sarsens that form the outer ring of Stonehenge come from near the English town of West Woods, a stone’s throw from Stonehenge.

According to the story, Merlin the Wizard enthroned a group of fellows to Ireland to dismantle and rebuild a magical stone circle in England. That myth was recorded in writing 900 years ago and was most likely passed on orally, through songs, for a much longer period of time. And indeed…certain stones have traveled an enormous distance.

The distinctive blue stones come from two former quarries in Wales, where many traces of Neolithic quarrying have been found. Mike Parker Pearson, a professor with 20 years of Stonehenge experience, calls it the “most exciting” find of his career. Of the approximately 80 blue stones that once stood on Stonehenge, 43 remain. They form an inner ‘horseshoe’ in a circle of much larger sandstone monoliths.

In the previous article I already mentioned the stone circle Bedd Arthur (also called Beddarthur – “Arthur’s grave”). It is located in the Preseli Hills, northwest of Mynachlog-ddu (also Mynachlogddu), near Cardigan in Pembrokeshire in Wales. According to local folklore, it is the final resting place of King Arthur.

Bedd Arthur is a horseshoe-shaped oval stone ring, which has led to speculation that it influenced the horseshoe shape of Stonehenge’s blue stones.

Bedd Arthur is located on the ‘Golden Road’, which runs through the Presili hills past Carn Menyn (site of the blue stones of Stonehenge).

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Stonehenge during midsummer, 1700 BC Nordisk Familjebok (1918)

Times are quite different: where the inner ring of Stonehenge was built 2,900 years ago, Geoffrey of Monmouth credits a fifth-century king as being responsible for its construction. Still, the myth is interesting; Archaeological research shows that the heavy structure Stonehenge was indeed originally in Wales, but was then moved some 225 km to England to rebuild it there. Wales, which belonged to Ireland in the time of the writer Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Cut stones, which the prehistoric stonemasons left behind, were found on the Preseli plateau. The researchers also found remains of campfires. By analyzing the charcoal, they were able to determine approximately when the stonemasons cut the stones for Stonehenge from the rock formations. In a rock formation called Craig Rhos-felin, this probably happened 3400 years ago. In another part of the Preseli Hills, called Carn Coedog, the Stonehenge granites were removed about 3,200 years ago. This is remarkable considering that the inner stone circle of Stonehenge in the British county of Wiltshire was only built 2900 years ago.

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This floor plan omits the trilithon lintels for clarity. Holes that no longer or never contain any stones are shown as open circles and stones visible today are shown colored, gray for sarsen and blue for the imported stone, mainly blue stone.

1 = The Altar Stone, a six-ton ​​monolith of green mica sandstone from Wales
2 = burial mound without burial
3 = “burial mounds” (without burials)
4 = The fallen ”Slaughter Stone”, 4.9 meters long
5 = The ”Very Stone”
6 = Two of the original four “Station Stones”
7 = Ditch / ditch
8 = Inner Bank
9 = Outer Bank
10 = The Avenue, a parallel pair of ditches and banks leading for 3 km to the River Avon
11 = Ring of 30 pits called the “Y Holes”
12 = Ring of 29 pits called the “Z Holes”
13 = Circle of 56 pits, known as the ”Aubrey Holes”
14 = Smaller South Entrance

Stonehenge was believed to have been founded in the period between 3,000 and 1,600 BC. Using petrography, a geological survey method that compares the mineral values ​​and texture of different rocks, Dr Richard Bevins of the National Museum Wales has been able to identify the rock’s origin. Together with his colleague, Dr Rob Ixer from the University of Leicester, he spent over nine months researching the Preseli plateau. In the end, the vast majority of Stonehenge’s stones turned out to come from the Rhos-y-felin Mountains in the Welsh region of Pont-Saeson, more than 220 kilometers from Stonehenge in southern England. It is not yet known from which region they come from only four stones.

Less than three miles from the quarries in the Preseli Hills in Pembrookshire, Wales, a huge stone circle belonging to our Neolithic ancestors has been discovered to be broken off. Waun Mawn (“peat swamp”) was the third largest stone circle in the UK and had features similar to those of the Stonehenge monument. For example, the diameter of 110 meters is the same as that of the ditch around Stonehenge. And like the iconic building at Amesbury, Wiltshire, England, Waun Mawn is aligned with the sunrise of the midsummer solstice. Waun Mawn was founded 5600 to 5000 years ago, even before the construction of Stonehenge, and thus later (almost completely) dismantled.

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Stonehenge at Sunset, 1836 (by John Constable, now in Yale Center for British Art)

In recent theories, Stonehenge is not only an observatory where astronomical events were monitored, but was a place where people from far away sought healing. You could compare it to a place like Lourdes. The theory is based, among other things, on a number of Bronze Age skeletons excavated in the area that show signs of bone deformity. About 5000 years ago it was a circular earth wall and ditch, but the complex continued to be expanded. Wooden posts were built around 2600 BC. replaced by 80 Welsh blue stones (which were rearranged at least three times after the larger sarsen stones were added several hundred years later).

Research is underway on human remains found at Stonehenge. A druid, King Arthur Pendragon, lost a lawsuit trying to stop this. Previous research on human remains found in the Aubrey Holes indicated that these individuals were from West Wales. Again this corresponds to the location of the blue stones. And the blue stones that now form a horseshoe within the sandstones previously stood on the site of 56 of the Aubrey Holes.

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Cremation remains. This person died around 3000 BC and his or her body was cremated. The burnt bone fragments were placed in one of the Aubrey Holes. No objects were found at this burial.
Photo taken at Stonehenge Visitor Center managed by English Heritage.

They traveled enormous distances to get to Stonehenge with the hope of being healed. And so Stonehenge resembles a place known from the Arthurian tales. Arthur, badly wounded, was taken to Avalon to heal. Avalon was the place “where the ladies are who know all the magic in the world”.

There are countless known places worldwide where priestesses could heal people, according to archaeological finds. The Greek inscription on a relief at a temple at Maionia reads: “To Artemis-Anaeitis, Charite the daughter of Apollonios, after an accident befell her, and after she was cured with a spell by the priestess, fulfilled her vow.” An explanation for this text: the sick woman Charite promised the goddess to erect a votive relief at the temple if she were to recover from her illness. Partly thanks to the invocations of the priestess, she recovered. She then fulfilled her promise to the goddess; she had the votive stone placed.

In the article Megaliths in the Moonlight, I noted that in connection with a study of cupmarks, which can only be seen under certain circumstances, archaeologist Andy Jones reported: “Stonehenge does have markings, and I think that many more would be found at sites across the country if people were to look at them in different light.” I am very curious what markings can be found at Stonehenge.

Marinda Ruiter

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Reconstruction of Stonehenge phase 3

This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in that article: koning Arthur en Stonehenge


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