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No. 74: Mar-Apr 1991

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"The lozenge, of 0.5-mm beaten gold, was excavated in 1808 AD from the Bush Barrow, 1 km from Stonehenge. "Until now, it has been assumed that the plaque was only decorative. After examination and measurement, the patterns of its carefully inscribed markings are believed to be identifiable as a calendar fashioned for use at Stonehenge. Found over the breast of a skeleton of a tall man, its symmetrical shape and correct corner angles make it appear probable that the plaque had something to do with the four cardinal points and solstitial sunrises and sunsets.

Gold lozenge excavated near Stonehenge
Markings on a gold lozenge excavated near Stonehenge. Some interpret the lines as indicators of solar and lunar positions on astronomically significant days. If so, this lozenge represents surprising sophistication 3600 years ago.

"By fixing the flat lozenge on a table at eye level and orientating it with its shorter diagonal on the meridain, an observer could use an alidade while watching sunrise or sunset throughout the year. Were the bronze rivets, found nearby, the remains of the alidade? Markings exist on the plaque which indicate that the 16-month calendar was in use. Guide lines exist for inserting the intercalary leap day. Eight additional lines can be identified as indicating moonrise and moonset at the equinoxes' standstills. Using actual horizon altitudes at Stonehenge and azimuths shown by the lozenge, calculation shows that the average discrepancy of the solar lines is 0.36 days and that it was made about 1600 BC.

"Was this ceremonially buried gold artifact a copy of a more robust working calendar, or was it the original master copy?

"The lozenge was a means whereby observed angular measurements could be recorded and subsequently retrieved years later without recourse to writing. It was essentially a textbook for making the calendar, a reference encyclopedia."

(Thom, A.S.; "The Bush Barrow Gold Lozenge: Is It a Solar and Lunar Calendar for Stonehenge?" Louisiana Mounds Society Newsletter, no. 37, February 14, 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #74, MAR-APR 1991. � 1991-2000 William R. Corliss