The Creators of Stonehenge Used the Pythagorean Theorem—2,000 Years Before Pythagoras
If you made it through high school math, you probably remember a2+b2=c2, the Pythagorean theorem.
It's an incredibly useful tool for architects and anyone trying to create perfect right angles, but despite having his name attached to it, it seems that Pythagoras wasn't actually the first person to discover the equation.
According to a new book published today (the summer solstice!), the ancient builders of Stonehenge and other astronomical sites across England were actually using it 2,000 years before Pythagoras was even born.
The book, titled Megaliths, delves into the incredible forgotten history of standing stone circles in ancient England, as well as the surprisingly advanced mathematical and astronomical knowledge that went into their construction.
One example is a rectangle that can be drawn within the original boundaries of Stonehenge and split into two perfectly proportioned Pythagorean triangles, showing that the builders understood the basic principles of the Pythagorean theorem.
The geometry of this rectangle also marks out four key dates on Stonehenge's monolithic 'calendar,' including the summer and winter solstices, the spring and fall equinoxes, and the traditional dates for Beltane (May Day) and Samhain (Halloween).
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To elevate all this to mind-blowing proportions, consider the theory that Stonehenge itself is just one point on an even larger Pythagorean triangle formed by two other sites situated across England: Lundy Island and Preseli Hills (the site where the bluestone for Stonehenge's central monoliths was mined).
In fact, Stonehenge seems to be the nexus for a whole network of sites whose locations can be linked by lines to create Pythagorean triangles.
Stonehenge, Arbor Low, and Bryn Celli Ddu form one triangle, and Stonehenge, Morte Point, and Bryn Celli Ddu form another one, which is a mirror of it.
Indeed, while the original purpose of Stonehenge may forever be lost to history, scientists agree its impact on how humans perceive something as fundamental as Time itself is immeasurable.
"The phrase 'a length of time' may originally derive from an epoch when the length of a ruler, rope or set measure actually represented a time period—a technique manifested within many megalithic structures, which enshrine the time periods of the Sun and Moon," said Megaliths co-author Robin Heath.
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While researchers can't seem to agree just who exactly built it, scientists believe Stonehenge wasn't just constructed for spiritual or aesthetic value; many argue that understanding the existential nature of time in a concrete way was very likely a matter of life and death for these people too.
According to one contributor to the book, John Matineau:
"We think these people didn't have scientific minds but first and foremost they were astronomers and cosmologists. They were studying long and difficult to understand cycles and they knew about these when they started planning sites like Stonehenge."
His feeling is echoed by Heath.
"These days it's seen as hippy-dippy or New Age, but actually it's a colossal omission to the history of science that we don't see these monuments for what they are. People see the Neolithic builders of Stonehenge as howling barbarians, when they were very learned and it has been forgotten."