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Final Thoughts

1.  Addressing the doubts

Ever since Alexander Thom published his book Megalithic Lunar Observatories in 1971, a considerable number of reasons have been given to doubt that precise lunar alignments could have been set up, even if there had been a desire to do so.

It is hoped that the following list (in no particular order), includes all of the more important reasons usually given:-  (In (italics) after each supposition, is given mention of a possible answer to/explanation of the presumed problem.)

  1. The declination of the moon changes too rapidly near the maximum north/south for observations, separated by 24hrs, to determine the furthest north/south.          ((a)Extrapolation, as explained by Thom 1971, Wood 1978.       (b) It is not impossible that some observations were done in daylight, giving more frequent observations.  (see Discussion earlier) ).
  2. Bad weather would result in many missed observations.        (It is believed that the climate in the Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age in Britain was very benign – perhaps even Mediterranean.  This was the Sub-boreal ( about 4000BC – 1400BC.)    (Wood 1978, pp182-184) )
  3. The lunar band is nearly a degree wide and within this range there are nine significant positions that the moon can have.   So chance can explain the results. (See evidence against this in 'Discussion' earlier. )
  4. The backsight indication is rarely sufficiently accurate to be able to indicate a specific foresight unambiguously.    (A backsight has an orientation; it cannot have the same precision as an alignment.  It indicates a lunar band.  Within that lunar band there would be expected to be only one possible foresight and that for ±s±Î”.   (and none outside but near the lunar band)  [Note There could be a second alignment within the same lunar band - See Discussion, no 'wobble alignment'])
  5. In hilly country there are so many potential foresight features, that chance alignments will be sufficiently frequent to invalidate claims of intended alignments.                (See Conclusions re Chance Alignments from the 'Random Sites' investigation.   The assumption turns out not to be correct)
  6. Vegetation at putative foresights could prevent sufficiently precise observations.    (  (a) There is evidence from pollen analysis that tree cover was limited.  See Heggie 1981, pp124-126.  Also climate  in (2) above.     (b) Results given earlier show that the majority of foresights found in the present investigation were rocky.)
  7. The work-load required to set up each site would be large.  To set up a lot of sites, all but impossible. (See the earlier section 'Some new ideas' for some thoughts on how the work might have been facilitated)
  8. Because of uncertainties resulting from changing parallax it would probably have required more than 80 years to set up each site. (The 'new ideas' mentioned above, could have assisted here.)
  9. Variations in refraction due to changes in temperature and pressure would, at the very least, make it difficult to set up precise alignments(Ruggles 1999, pp23& 25). (It is true that there are uncertainties w.r.t. refraction. (Thom 1971, Chap.3; Thom 1978, p2 ).   Nonetheless the majority of the alignments found in this investigation are within 1' arc of the theoretical value, suggesting that there is less of a problem than supposed).
  10. The social structure generally believed to exist at the time would have precluded the widespread expertise required.   (The belief that society was more stratified (i.e. hierachical) during the Early Bronze Age than previously thought is becoming more accepted.)
  11. Without the ability to keep written records, the task would not have been possible.    (There is good evidence that in the Middle East in early times that oral records were passed down for many 100's (even 1000's) of years in religious schools, and continued to be so transmitted even when writing became known. (Norman Cohn, Cosmos Chaos and the world to come, Yale University Press, 1993, pp58/59 & pp79/80) )
  12. What would have been the purpose?   (We cannot be sure, but it is a fact that if the time of the maximum of the 'wobble' is known, then eclipses can be predicted.  The reason for desiring this ability?   Power and control perhaps??)

Other assertions such as:- 'They would not have been sufficiently numerate' or  'They would not have had the ability'  simply give indications of our lack of knowledge of the time, and cannot be considered as 'evidence' against the hypothesis.



2  Planned Lunar Alignments

The currently accepted view is, as most readers will probably be aware, that the only substantial evidence to date for the existence of planned precise alignments has been that presented  by Alexander Thom; and that Clive Ruggles  showed that there were sufficient significant uncertainties with much of Thom’s work,  to be able to say that the results found by Thom could be explained by chance alone.  This view has not been seriously challenged during the last 25 years, which has perhaps been due to a lack of evidence to the contrary.   It should be noted that Ruggles has said on several occasions that his work does not disprove the possible existence of intentional precise alignments; only that in his view, Thom’s work fails to prove it.

The present work appears to show that in the region examined there is compelling evidence in favour of the existence of precise alignments in the Early Bronze age, and set up for the specific purpose of observing the 9’ arc lunar perturbation.

Since this is a potentially important claim it has been felt advisable to present the fullest possible evidence.   Therefore:-

  • A full analysis of the results has been given.   See ‘Discussion’ Analysis of results, and in particular  Summary of Alignments,    Declination values found,   Theodolites measurements .
  • Most of the essential raw data in the form of the original measurements is given in the next section ‘Technical Matters’.   Anyone who so desires can check the results given based on these measurements.
  • In principle, there is nothing to prevent  anyone who feels the need, from making their own measurements as a check .


3.   Future work

There are other regions in Scotland containing suitable groups of stones.  Work on several of these using essentially the same methods is currently underway, and when available the results will be presented here.