By Jess McHugh
August 24, 2016
Stone Circles In Callanish, Scotland
Credit: Peter Thompson/Spectrum/Getty Images

Archaeologists have long marveled at ancient “great circles,” such as the iconic Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, wondering who created such constructions and why.

A team of archaeologists have discovered that two of the oldest such stone circles in Great Britain were constructed in alignment with the sun and moon, likely by ancient astronomers seeking to understand the relationship between Earth and the two celestial objects.

Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, on the Isle of Orkney, built in 3,000 B.C. and both predating Stonehenge by about 500 years, were constructed in line with the movements of the sun and the moon, according to new research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“This research is finally proof that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2,000 years,” Gail Higginbottom of Australian National University, the lead author of the report, told Sci-News.

At different points of the solar and lunar cycle, the stones interact with the landscape in different ways.

“For example, at 50 percent of the sites, the northern horizon is relatively higher and closer than the southern and the summer solstice Sun rises out of the highest peak in the north,” Higginbottom said. “These people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew.”