Monday, February 15, 2010

Stonehenge Mystery Solved at Snowhenge - Michigan DRUIDS Unravel the Ancient Enigma

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury. One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Produced by a culture with no written language, dating much earlier than the first cultures that did leave written records, Stonehenge is steeped in wonder and mystery.

Many theories abound about its origin, ranging from the academic worlds of archaeology and anthropology to the mystical realms of the mythological, extraterrestrial, paranormal and supernatural. This multiplicity of theories, some of them very colorful, is often called the "Mystery of Stonehenge." Recently an ambitious group of Michiganders took up the challenge and now openly declare the mystery solved. Given the modern anthropological and archaeological evidence, along with Michigan's unique relationship to these ancient English builders, they may be right.

Vikings, Phoenicians, Egyptians and the lost tribe of Israel in Michigan? According to historians, Michigan may very well have been home to these groups including several other mysterious ancients at some point in its prehistoric past. Following an ancient trail of archaeological evidence, a stone circle similar in character to Stonehenge was found in 1985 on Lake Michigan's Beaver Island that could have been built by any one of these ancient groups. Peculiar to these stones are their exact relationships to star positions, later research revealing an additional alignment with the midsummer solstice. The thing that perplexed archaeologists most was the fact that the bands of Native Americans indigenous to this area never created stone monuments. So who made it? The anthropological fingerprints suggest they were constructed by the same builders of Stonehenge from thousands of years ago.

The first academic effort to survey and understand Stonehenge was made around 1640 by John Aubrey, antiquarian and biographer, England's first archeologist. He declared Stonehenge the work of Druids. This view was greatly popularized by William Stukeley, an English scholar of sacred history and occult sciences. Aubrey also contributed the first measured drawings of the site, which permitted greater analysis of its form and significance. From this work, he was able to demonstrate an astronomical role in the stones' placement. The English architect John Wood was to undertake the first truly accurate survey of Stonehenge in 1740 and also credited the monument to the Druids. Wood's interpretation of the monument as a place of pagan ritual however was vehemently attacked by Stukeley who saw the Druids not as pagans, but as biblical patriarchs. Religious historians suggest that the Druids eventually migrated east becoming the ancient fathers of European Dutch Reformers who in modern times immigrated to the United States concentrating in pockets around West Michigan.

Armed with the knowledge of Michigan's multiple connections to Stonehenge and fueled by a rock-solid upright desire to know the unknown, a group of amateur archaeoastronomical and physiological scientists calling themselves the Michigan DRUIDS endeavored to construct a replica of Stonehenge with the intention of unraveling and unveiling its ancient mysteries. With funding provided by the Foundation for Neolithic Studies, the Stonehenge Rivertown Project, originally commissioned in summer 2008, finally broke permafrost ground several solstices later. On February 13th, 2010 they were successful in completing a 1/3rd scale replica of Stonehenge at the MacKay Jaycees Family Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The monument built out of Michigan's most abundant natural raw material is appropriately named Snowhenge.

Standing 6.5 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter and consisting of nearly 1000 cubic feet of packed snow, Snowhenge's 12 pillars and 12 lintels are perfectly aligned astronomical markers. Looking directly through the hole in the center of pillar 3 soon after sunset on Winter Solstice extraordinarily reveals an almost equilateral triangle formed by the visible planets Saturn (left), Mars (top), and Venus (right). A curious carving on pillar 4 shows four stars inside a trapezium which matches the Trapezium Star Cluster in the Orion Nebula. The imaginary end point of a line dissecting the trapezium matches the coordinates of the star Sirius, the brightest star in the Milky Way. An obelisk inside the snow circle marks the passage of the sun as its shadow moves in a figure eight on the ground below. Stone plaques strategically placed on the ground display the constellations of the zodiac. Outside the circle, three pairs of standing snowmen show where the sun rises and sets for each of the solstices and equinoxes. Every key point also has a rock plaque denoting its seasonal significance engraved with a simple phrase like "Midsummer Solstice Sunrise". Others describe local area seasonal events such as "Blandford Sugarbush", "Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts", "28th Street Metro Cruise", "Art Prize" and "Celebration on the Grand". The 12 lintels, supported by 144 rods of ice rebar, also contain markings that coincide with the orbital patterns of Earth and Venus which are designed to forecast solar eclipses, the appearance of comets, and the end of the world on December 23rd of 2012, exactly matching the Mayan calendar prediction. What's most truly remarkable, pillar 1 is precisely parallel with 28th Street! Curiously, the phenomenon known as global warming which has created isolated heat zones around the globe inversely causes cold spots on the opposite side of the globe. Numerous consecutive years of record heat spikes in Perth, Australia are directly responsible for the extraordinary cold snaps at MacKay Jaycees Family Park which will amazingly keep Snowhenge frozen all year round.

At the conclusion of the construction effort, modern telescope observations indicated that a supernova lit up the Grand Rapids skyline and then Michigan DRUIDS leader Peter Salisbury declared the Stonehenge mystery solved. Salisbury, also the chairman and founder of the Foundation for Neolithic Studies, has investigated prehistoric monuments and sacred geometry his entire career. The thesis proposed by Salisbury and his Michigan DRUIDS is currently under consideration by the London Society of Antiquaries which could award the group £1 Million for being the first to conclusively decipher the mystery of Stonehenge. The claim must first be positively verified by the Grand Rapids Office of Antiquaries and Neolithic Studies.

Within no time a media frenzy ensued, mobile satellite news trucks flocked to the MacKay Jaycees Family Park to cover the breaking story. In the FOX 17 news interview immediately following the Michigan DRUIDS announcement, Peter Salisbury explained, "When contemplating unexplained prehistoric mysteries, some people exercise unusual logic. Strive toward reasonable answers, that's our motto. The key to solving the ancient enigma of Stonehenge hinges on solving the mystery of who the DRUIDS really were. Stonehenge exists by virtue of its purpose. Knowing who the DRUIDS were and what they stood for, leads us to discover their true purpose for building Stonehenge."

Who were these ancient DRUIDS? There are several prominent theories:
- Healers: Doctors Relieving Unbearable Illnesses with Dolerite Stones
- Priests: Doing Religion Usually In Dark Suits
- Mystics: Delving in Religion Utilizing Incense & Dark Seances
- Engineers: Displacing Rocks Using Intelligence, Determination, and Science
- Architects: Designers Revolutionizing Urban Interior Development with Style
- Astronomers: Dudes Reaching Up Into Dark Sky
- Undertakers: Decomposing Remains Under Immense Distinguishing Sepulchers

There are also many "colorful" theories less accepted by mainstream historians and anthropologists:
- Aliens: Distant Reptiles Up In Deep Space
- ET's: Driving Real UFOs In Deep Space
- Activists: Downtrodden Rebel Underlings Intent on Doing Something
- Pacifists: Drifters Reclining Usually Instead of Doing Stuff
- Politicians: Disguising Rhetoric Under Illusions of Democratic Solutions
- Hippies: Dudes Rocking Using Intense Drugs & Stuff
- Drunks: Drinking Responsibly Under the Influence of Brewed Substances (DRUIBS)

Realizing that building Snowhenge would require a huge collective effort by fellow Druids, Peter Salisbury called together family members, friends and their family members to mimic the kind of work force that built Stonehenge. This solitary act proved to be the golden key that unlocked the mystery. Organizing this band of associated individuals into a single, massive, communal effort required one special belief. This mystical, magical, non-religious singular faith was a common conviction that this project was going to be FUN!

Meticulous research exploring the world archive of ancient manuscripts and glyphs, countless hours spent painstakingly excavating digs at stone circle sites around the globe, and after nearly two dozen keystrokes pressed executing exhaustive Google Internet searches, Peter Salisbury discovered an astonishing truth! The ancient DRUIDS were NOT some neo-pagan religious organization, but instead were the ancient forerunners to the Freemasons, an exclusive fraternity known as Doing Ridiculously Unbelievable Inexplicable Designs with Stone. Their intention was to instill awe and wonder in the eyes of the beholder, to make the onlooker think inquisitively. Loosely translated, Stonehenge in primitive Celtic is "Stohn-hendjeh" meaning "How dey do dat?" and in old Welsh dialect it's the close variant "Stohn-whendgeh" meaning "Why dey do dat?”. The movement caught on rapidly, spreading quickly around the ancient globe with chapters opening up at Easter Island in Chille, Mancho Picho in Peru, Chichen Itza in Yucatan Mexico and most prominently at the Giza Plateau in Cairo, Egypt. No matter the project however, the underlining purpose in all their efforts was to bring families together, all in the name of fun. Respectively, the Michigan DRUIDS derive their name from the original ancient DRUIDS calling themselves, Deliberately Replicating Unbelievable Inexplicable Designs with Snow (aka: Doing Ridiculous Undertakings In Deep Snow).

Modern anthropological and archaeological evidence has conclusively determined that Stonehenge was NOT a religious temple, a supernatural site for healing, an astronomical calendar, a Neolithic burial site, an extraterrestrial landing zone, or even really big park benches. Contemporary human psychology has solved the mystery, now declaring that Stonehenge was just a bunch of friends having some good ol' fashioned family fun with their spouses and kids. The ancient DRUIDS did it with stone, the Michigan DRUIDS do it with snow. No matter the medium, the DRUIDS purpose remains the same - do it bigger, live it larger, play it harder, have some fun.

The Making of Snowhenge

Snowhenge was conceived initially in the summer of 2008 on the beaches of Lake Michigan as a very small Sandhenge model. Later that fall, the first paper model was constructed to get a feel for overall dimensions.

Next came a cardboard model with the idea of creating placeholders for the pillars during actual snow construction.

Timing of participant involvement with adequate snow conditions during the winter of 2009 failed to coalesce, therefore Snowhenge was postponed for a year. During the off season, a three-dimensional computer model was produced using Sketchup as a means to finalize the design.

The computer model yielded exact dimensions from which wooden forms were constructed, three for building pillars and two for building lintels. The pillar forms were modular having three levels. Level by level snow was added, sprinkled with water and compacted by standing and stomping around inside the forms.

A test run of the pillar forms proved very successful, yielding a beautifully sculpted, solid snow column.

The lintel forms were basic rectangular boxes in which snow was mixed with water layered over 12 rods of ice rebar.

How were the Michigan DRUIDS able to achieve the incredibly high precision required to create perfectly aligned astronomical markers out of snow? The answer is simple, use the same tools the ancient DRUIDS used. This interesting looking construction tool modeled after an artifact discovered at Stonehenge ensured that the precise distance and perfect angle were maintained between each of the 12 pillars of Snowhenge.

All the engineering components worked together nicely to make the building of Snowhenge an efficient process and a fun endeavor for Michigan DRUIDS of all ages.

The final step in the making of Snowhenge was the installation of full scale signage to properly announce the historic landmark to travelers passing by on 28th street. The Snowhenge logo was designed as a morph of the official city of Grand Rapids logo to pay homage to the great river city in which it stands.

Snowhenge at Night

This awesome photo documenting Snowhenge nocturnal activities provided with permission by Mr. Deeper Blue, Mathew Silverman. See this photo and more of his original photography on Flickr: