Arthur and the Neolithic

The name “Arthur” can have at least two origins. One possibility is that it is linked to the Welsh word “arth” (“bear”), and another possibilty is that it is derived from the star Arcturus, which means “bear-guardian”. As far as we know, the star Arcturus played no role in British prehistory, but Orion’s Belt did. The Thornborough monument complex near Ripon in North Yorkshire consists of a cursus and three henges. Jan Harding, Ben Johnston and Glyn Goodrick have shown (in “Neolithic Cosmology and the Monument Complex at Thornborough , North Yorkshire”, Archaeoastronomy 20, 2006) that all three henges can be associated with the rising of Sirius in 3000 BC: “as the star rises over the eastern edge of the central and southern henges as viewed from the center of the northern and central henges, respectively, and the eastern bank terminal as viewed from within the southern henge, Orion’s Belt would have been above the western bank terminal of all three southern henge entrances.” Orion’s Belt “would have first become visible toward the end of summer, initially in mid-August for an hour or so, but by mid-September for much of the night, at a time of year when the landscape had begun to change.” In ancient Greece, the star Arcturus was associated with stormy weather, and this could well have been the case with Orion’s Belt in Neolithic North Yorkshire.

Thornborough Henge


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