Stone Age Britons had a sophisticated knowledge of geometry to rival Pythagoras – 2,000 years before the Greek "father of numbers" was born, according to a new study of Stonehenge.
Five years of detailed research, carried out by the Oxford University landscape archaeologist Anthony Johnson, claims that Stonehenge was designed and built using advanced geometry.
The discovery has immense implications for understanding the monument – and the people who built it. It also suggests it is more rooted in the study of geometry than early astronomy – as is often speculated.
Mr Johnson believes the geometrical knowledge eventually used to plan, pre-fabricate and erect Stonehenge was learnt empirically hundreds of years earlier through the construction of much simpler monuments.
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The experimental archaeology demonstrates that most of the monument was pre-planned and that the great stones were pre-fabricated off-site and then installed by surveyor-engineers.
"For years people have speculated that Stonehenge was built as a complex astronomical observatory. My research suggests that, apart from mid-summer and mid-winter solar alignments, this was not the case," said Mr Johnson. "It strongly suggests that it was the knowledge of geometry and symmetry which was an important component of the Neolithic belief system."
"It shows the builders of Stonehenge had a sophisticated yet empirically derived knowledge of Pythagorean geometry 2000 years before Pythagoras," he said.