Thornborough confirmed as worlds first "Orion Complex"


TimeWatch Media Announcement - For immediate release ­ 13/2/06

World’s first Orion monument unveiled in Yorkshire, England.

Thornborough Henges

The 5,500 year old Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire have been announced as the worlds first monument aligned to the constellation Orion, beating the pyramids of Giza by almost 1,000 years.

Dr Jan Harding, Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University today confirmed that in-depth research involving a complex 3D model has confirmed that Thornborough has a number of stellar alignments and that Yorkshires ancient wonder is the earliest major monument in the world aligned to the constellation Orion.

Just like the three Great Pyramids at Giza, the three great henges at Thornborough have been linked by many as possibly reflecting Orion’s Belt however Dr Hardings work focussed on the entire monument complex at Thornborough and has revealed that even before the henges were built, Orion was a significant focus for religion in Neolithic Britain.

The first major monument at Thornborough was built around 3,500BC, this was a 1.2km long processional way, which was created so that its western end pointed towards the setting of the constellation Orion. It seems this structure had a dual purpose, for its eastern end is aligned to the midsummer solstice.

Around 3,000 BC, the three mighty henges at Thornborough were built, creating Britain’s largest religious gathering place, it is likely that these were erected in order to mirror Orion’s Belt and in addition each southern entrance was aligned to frame the rising of Sirius ­ a star linked to Orion in Egyptian mythology and again a dual purpose is apparent for the axis of these entrances was aligned on the midwinter sunrise.

This research is due to be published by Newcastle University in 2007 as part of a major new report on the Thornborough complex that is likely to set the archaeological world ablaze with significant new insights into the Neolithic world.

“Thornborough was a sacred landscape, a place of religious worship, and we should try to interpret these astronomical orientations within that context.” Said Dr Harding. “This astronomical association was emphasised by the banks of the henges being coated in brilliant white gypsum. Neolithic people surely felt they were at the centre of the very cosmos as they worshipped the heavens above.”

The announcement has been welcomed by TimeWatch, who are campaigning for an end to quarrying of the Thornborough Complex “This study emphasises the importance of Thornborough as a site of extreme importance on a global scale” said TimeWatch Chairman George Chaplin “Surely it is time to stop this quarry and give Thornborough the respect it deserves.”

North Yorkshire County Council planning committee will meet on the 21st February to determine the latest quarry application at Thornborough by Tarmac Northern Ltd. The latest area targeted for gravel extraction is Ladybridge Farm, which contains a Neolithic settlement used by those that built and worshipped at the henges.


Editors Notes

For more information TimeWatch can be contacted on 07711 684028, or press@timewatch.org and www.timewatch.org

Dr Jan Harding can be contacted at School of Historical Studies, University Of Newcastle (0191-222-7966)

Image credit - www.timewatch.org


Background information

Ladybridge Farm Planning Delay - Click Here To Find Out More

Thornborough Henges comprises three linked earthworks that once formed part of a ceremonial landscape and is considered to be one of the most important and best-preserved prehistoric sites in the country. The Henges themselves are protected and not under threat but the value of the surrounding landscape, which includes the Ladybridge site, has been hotly debated.

The archaeological investigation funded by Tarmac uncovered early prehistoric pits containing grooved ware pottery, together with nine undated features, nine features relating to two post medieval field boundaries and a large number of natural features. However the report stated that the pits were heavily eroded and “lacked environmental potential”.

English Heritage have responded with a letter to North Yorkshire County Council in advance of the planning meeting which states: “The minerals planning proposal from Tarmac Northern Ltd will have a clear and negative impact on nationally important archaeology.”

“English Heritage believes that the archaeological evaluations have now adequately characterised the deposits within the Ladybridge Farm site and we have no hesitation in asserting that these deposits are of national importance, dating from the Neolithic period and related to the adjacent monument complex and its wider landscape.”

Tarmac have in turn responded by refuting English Heritage’s claims. Tarmac Estates manager Bob Nicholson said: “Using the same methodology and scoring system applied to finds at Stonehenge, our consultants and North Yorkshire County Council carried out separate assessments of the Ladybridge artefacts and agreed that they were not of national importance.”

“News that English Heritage is maintaining its objection to our planning application is deeply disappointing, puzzling and flies in the face of the factual evidence,” said Mr Nicholson. He added that the report, “emerged from a detailed archaeological investigation that was conducted using a methodology agreed with and subsequently monitored by them (English Heritage) and North Yorkshire County Council.”

Despite Tarmac’s claims and the report’s findings, other prominent archaeologists maintain that the Ladybridge Farm site is worth preserving.

In a letter sent to Chris Jarvis, Senior Minerals and Waste Policy Officer at North Yorkshire County Council, Dr Mike Heyworth Director of the Council for British Archaeology stated: “While the recent work confirms that the archaeological preservation of the prehistoric features has been eroded by agricultural activity, we see no reason to change our view of the national significance of the site in the context of the henges and their landscape,”

Dr Jan Harding, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Newcastle, who has studied Thornborough Henges for several years, agreed. “The planning application to quarry at Ladybridge proposes the destruction of a significant part of Thornborough’s ‘sacred landscape’”, he said. “It is therefore regrettable that the report…fails to appreciate the significance of the results from Ladybridge Farm by offering a selective and distorted interpretation.”

Tarmac, who claim that English Heritage have failed to give any evidence-based reasons to support its assertion that the archaeology is nationally important, said: “We believe that a wider principle is at stake here, as acceptance that quarrying, farming and development activity can be brought to a halt based on subjective opinion that cannot be supported by facts, has very serious implications for the rural economy.”

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