A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.

40.     BOMB SHELTERS

To create the smaller-scale 2nd-stage diagrams of Woodhenge and Stonehenge the lords selected a convenient site located near the village of Amesbury, named for nearby Mt Ambrius or Caer Emrys meaning ‘hill of the gods’. It was only about 30 km south of Silbury Hill where the main workforce had been housed in the massive dormitories of the long-barrows at East Kennet and West Kennet. But 30 km was too far to commute so the first thing they had to do was build new local lodgings in the form of the 75 metre Amesbury long-barrow – which is now destroyed.

Then they set about building the Woodhenge complex showing the start of the story – the origin of the intrusive comet that clashed with Saturn and Uranus; and the Stonehenge complex showing the ending of the story – the final impact with Earth. The beginning and the ending.

The ‘long-barrows’ were massive constructions consisting of internal megalith ‘door frame’ structures (two vertical stones with a lintel across the top), and then the whole thing covered with earth. The design formed a simple but immensely strong and secure ‘cave’ for housing the workforce.  There are dozens of them scattered around Britain and Brittany, the larger ones associated with other mounds and dykes of the primary planetary sculpture. Considering the total number and scale of the long barrows they collectively represent a massive resource allocation – way beyond the capacity of the paltry indigenous population.

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Of course these days the long-barrows are conventionally labelled as ‘tombs’, mainly because excavations in the 19th-century revealed a few skeletons. Not primary ‘burials’ exactly, but secondary re-interments of a motley collection of disarticulated and incomplete skeletons frequently with broken skulls and other bones. These were the later locals. Examination of the bones showed small stature, malnutrition, arthritis and other diseases and deformations indicative of inbreeding. Early on the antiquarian John Aubrey unkindly described the local Britons as …two or three degrees, I suppose, less salvage [sic] than the Americans; and more recently eminent Oxford archaeologist Richard Atkinson characterised them as ‘Howling Barbarians, practically savage’. [1]

There are several logical problems with the ‘tomb’ theory. The main ones being that the barrows are too big, not sealed or even ‘sealable’, and there are no primary burials – only a few secondary re-burials of loose skeletons. They were secondary ossuaries, with no grand ‘grave goods’ befitting a King! Typical construction was Cyclopean in scale but crude and utilitarian – nothing at all to suggest a tomb for royalty. A survey of barrows in the vicinity of Avebury found that on average they contained only 6 – 15 [secondary] ‘burials’ of skeletons; the long barrow at Beckhampton contained nothing at all, and the 104 m long chamber of West Kennet contained only forty disarticulated skeletons in ‘an irreverent jumble’. The author was forced to conclude ‘even if the earliest mounds had been burial places, they are best regarded as cult centres for the protection of the living’. Likewise, French scholar J-P Mohen reviewed the ‘passage graves’ of Atlantic France, several ranging up to 100 –150 m long. He also noticed that the massive structures contained very few ‘burials’ – for example the Demoiselle mound at le Thou was over 100 m long but contained only a single fragment of a skull; the 26 m Bernet barrow contained a single skeleton and two pots; the 174 m Motte-des-Justices mound at Thousars revealed only ‘very few funerary traces’. Mohen was forced to question ‘what can have been the purpose of these imposing mounds of stone which were so little used for burials? [2] Indeed!

Despite these cautions from orthodox experts, the labels ‘long barrow tombs’ and ‘passage graves’ have become urban myths. In the face of a lack of evidence and firm contrary evidence the tomb theory persists.

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The primary purpose of the long-barrows was to provide secure, protected housing for the work parties. Protection from what? Protection from occasional, unpredictable meteorite showers. The barrows were both dormitories and air-raid shelters – for protection against the fallout from the battle of the gods in the sky. That was reported in mainstream literature in 1999 but regarded as ‘crazy’ at the time. [3]

Classical mythology records that after the initial clash of Phaethon, the young son at Newgrange, Saturn poured ‘his wrath’ on mankind; and then again later when Mercury clashed with Mars the debris fell for days and years and centuries after. Homer’s Apollo showered hapless Trojans with his flaming arrows, slaughtering hundreds until the earth was dark with blood; the plain shook, thunderously groaned the Earth. That was colourfully related in local folklore as the Scots ‘Old Hag’ Biera who dropped stones from her creel as she flew across the sky. She was the original witch on her broomstick whose memory was observed at Samhain on ‘All Witches Eve’, now obscured and trivialised as Halloween. Or as the Welsh black swine Twrch Trwyth who dropped his ‘litter’ on the land – just like the Greek Demeter who was originally a black sow who dropped her ‘seed’, before being later glorified as a goddess. In the Iliad  … stones showered to Earth like snow … and Hesiod recounted that … boulders sprung loose, the earth resounded and the forest groaned.

Britain still resounds with the eponymous names of stones dropped from the sky by ‘the devil’ … at Grimstone, Grimstead, Grimsby, Letcombe (Leto’s teeth), Whatcombe (Wat’s teeth), Swyncombe (Swine’s teeth), Witchampton (Witch’s ham), Bere Regis (Biera reigns) and even the Devil’s (Apollo’s) Arrows (at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire). While elsewhere the Old Hag dropped her stones at Skirtful of Stones (West Yorkshire), Barclodiad-Y-Gawres (Apronful of the Giantess, Anglesay), Arffedogaid-y Warch (Apronful of the Hag, Flintshire), Slieve na Caillighe (Hag’s Mountain, Co Meath) and Beinne na Caillich (Hag’s Hill, Strath).

Modern science recognizes that about ninety percent of known meteorites are just ordinary common-garden stone – called achondrites – that came from a single source, probably Mars. The orthodox accounts conclude …’ Just how these meteorites escaped from Mars remains unclear, but most meteoriticists are now quite sure they did’. [4] Homer knew – when King Priam wept at the loss of his sons killed under the onslaught of Apollo’s celestial arrows, he lamented simply … Ares [Mars] killed them.

Following the clash of the giants in the sky meteoric debris fell to Earth for years afterwards. It still falls now as the meteoric ‘dust’ of the Perseids and Leonids that occasionally light up the night sky harmlessly. But in the ‘Stone Age’ substantial real stones fell to Earth in a fatal bombardment, particularly on Britain whose fair and green land was littered with stones until cleared for farming in the late 19th and early 20th-centuries. The Marlborough Downs locale, to the north of Stonehenge was once covered with large grey boulders called Grey Wethers or Wedders (sheep). When antiquarian John Aubrey with Sir Christopher Wren visited about 1666 they noticed the boulders … doe all pitch one way, like arrows shot … it looks as if it had been the scene where the giants had fought with huge stones against the Gods. [5] That was a commonsense observation and was repeated by a Mr Marshall in the Wiltshire Magazine of 1817 writing … the Grey Wedders of Marlboro’ , Stonehenge, etc, are of atmospherical, or more appropriately of cometic origin – meteorites in fact. But he was ridiculed and ignored and a modern (2001) review still characterises the meteoric account as ‘fantasised’. Nevertheless, the area was littered with surface stones and when Oxford’s Prof. Atkinson conducted a formal excavation of Stonehenge in the 1950s he recorded that the surroundings were still scattered with stones the size of ‘cricket balls to footballs’. [6] For non-English readers a cricket ball is about the size of a tennis ball, but much harder.

So the lords lived and sheltered in earth-covered stone caves, like troglodytes, for fear of being stoned to death by the celestial gods. Much later when hapless locals were caught in the open and killed by stones their skeletons were recovered and re-buried. That’s why the skeletons had broken heads and bones and were picked clean by predators, with whole limbs missing. The lords’ cavernous shelters were later copied by locals on a more modest scale, called a souterrain, or fougou in Cornwall, literally an ‘[under]earth-house’. It was not a tomb but a refuge for the living. When a souterrain in the Orkneys was accidentally opened in 1926 (when a steam tractor fell through the roof), it was found to contain piles of cockle shells indicating that people had lived and eaten there. In the Barclodiad y Gawres mound (of the ‘Giants’) on Anglesey the hearth ashes contained remains of whiting, eels, frogs, toads, snakes, mice, shrews and hare – colourfully reported at the time as signs of ‘deep magic’, rather than simply the remains of dinner. [7]

Mention of food raises the interesting side issue of how a significant work gang managed to feed itself – given that Britain of this period was essentially non-arable, inhabited only by a sparse population of ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherers. Yet at Balbridie, on the River Dee near Aberdeen, excavation of a large timber-framed building 12 x 24 m, dated pre-3400 BC, revealed ‘large quantities’ of wheat and barley grain. But there was no chaff or other residues indicating any processing. This large undivided building looked like a storage barn for imported grain – close to river transport. Elsewhere excavations of megalithic sites have found associated traces of fire sites and large quantities of partly charred animal bones, especially pigs, stags and aurochs – interpreted in the 19th-20th-century vogue as evidence of heathen ritual burnt offerings. Rather than just the site of the camp kitchen,

Across Europe in the Stone Age men lived in natural caves (if available), or in semi-underground souterrains, or in aboveground simple dolmens – a single ‘doorway’ of two upright stones and a lintel covered with earth. In most cases now the earth has eroded away leaving only the stone doorway, alternatively known as cromlechs or kurganes. These structures still existed in thousands into the 20th-century. In the late-1880’s de Nadaillac recorded 2582 ‘megaliths’ in France; 2000 in the Orkney Is.; thousands of kurganes (cromlechs) on the steppes of Central and Southern Russia; tens of thousands of ‘monuments of the Celtic form’ in Algeria, of which he intrepidly examined more than 1000 in three days. [8] There was even a large barrow style example in London, called the Parliament Hill Barrow (41 m x 2.4 m high) on Hamstead Heath. It was opened in 1894 but nothing was found.

Men lived in this period essentially underground, as troglodytes. That situation was widely recorded in Classical literature but it was misunderstood, or obscured by anthropocentric mistranslation. Early commentators on ancient Greece wrote that early men were ‘… savages, beasts dwelling in mountain caves, and clefts unvisited by the sun’ … on the authority of Aristotle (384-322 BC) who wrote ‘It is probable the first men were produced by the earth (earth-born) or survived from some deluge.’ The [superior] Thebeans and Arcadians held themselves to be ‘earth-born’, but in the case of what 19th-century anthropologists called … lower, primitive, barbaric, rude races … they were simply thought ‘to have come out of a hole in the ground’. Literally they emerged, or re-emerged, from their hole in the ground. [9] 19th century European anthropologists glorified their own origin under the grandiloquent title of ‘autochthonous’ (earth born), as if their Christian God created them from a handful of dust. But beneath the mumbo-jumbo it all meant the same; we all crawled out of a hole in the ground.

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Meanwhile, back in their barrows, the construction gangs passed idle hours by doodling patterns on the internal megaliths. Naturally, their graffiti reflected the motifs of the planetary diagrams. In Ireland the Newgrange team exercised artistic flair by rendering Homer’s thrice furrowed field as an elegant triple spiral. At Gavrinis near the Carnac alignments they must have had more time on their hands and almost covered the internal walls of their cave with multiple flowing loops and spirals – reflecting the contrails in the sky.

Back at Amesbury the meteorite showers ebbed away and the teams ventured out again to construct Woodhenge and Stonehenge.

[1] Chippindale, Stonehenge Complete; Malone, The Prehistoric Monuments of Avebury; Flinders Petrie, Stonehenge: Plans, Descriptions and Theories; Pitts, Hengeworld

[2] Burl, Prehistoric Avebury; Mohen, The World of Megaliths

[3] Steel, Stonehenge and the terror in the sky. British Archaeology

[4] Dodd, Thunderstones and Shooting Stars

[5] Cited in Burl, Prehistoric Avebury

[6] Atkinson, Stonehenge

[7] Helm, Exploring Prehistoric England

[8] De Nadaillac, Manners & Monuments of Prehistoric Peoples

[9] Aristotle, Politics, II; in Lang, Myth, Ritual & Religion

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