Are there hidden depths to the golden lozenge of Stonehenge?

By April Holloway, www.ancient-origins.net
September 29, 2017 1:11 pm Last Updated: September 29, 2017 1:40 pm

A lesser-known discovery from the iconic site of Stonehenge is the spectacular and mysterious golden lozenge artifact which was found in the grave of what is supposed an ancient chieftain or high priest near the circle. Could his grave goods have some astronomical significance?

A British archaeologist named William Cunnington found a rich hoard of artifacts that have been dubbed the crown jewels of the “King of Stonehenge.”

In 1808, a British archaeologist named William Cunnington found a rich hoard of artifacts that have been dubbed the crown jewels of the “King of Stonehenge.”

Could it make sense that there was a king connected to the ancient stones? The find was made at a large Bronze Age burial mound just half a mile (800 meters) from Stonehenge, known today as Bush Barrow. But the burial is close enough to the circle and within the wider complex to believe its positioning is no coincidence.

Gold lozenge, gold belt buckle, copper dagger. Bronze Age grave goods from Wilsford G5, Bush Barrow. Now in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. (Public Domain)
Gold lozenge, gold belt buckle, copper dagger. Bronze Age grave goods from Wilsford G5, Bush Barrow. Now in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. (Public domain)

Cunnington wrote to his superior archaeologist, Sir Richard Colt Hoare: “We found the skeleton of a stout and tall man. On approaching the breast of the skeleton, we found immediately on the breast bone a fine plate of gold. This article in the form of a lozenge was fixed to a thin piece of wood, over the edges of which the gold was wrapped.”

There was a large golden belt-hook lying by his waist, which was decorated with delicate impressed linear lines, as well as another smaller diamond shaped lozenge.

 The golden lozenge is rare, if not unique, in this period.

Gold lozenge, one of the grave goods from Wilsford G5, Bush Barrow. (Public domain)
Gold lozenge, one of the grave goods from Wilsford G5, Bush Barrow. (Public domain)

The find is significant in several aspects. First, to find such old burial remains in place and not looted is extraordinary. The burial is around the 4000-year-old mark and Bronze Age gold doesn’t come around so often.

Secondly, the decoration (if indeed that is what it is) found on the golden lozenge is rare, if not unique, in this period. It consists of impressed lines in a pattern that indicates knowledge of geometry that would be considered advanced and even ahead of the times. The precision design has been assessed by some as being produced by repeating hexagons within a series of three concentric circles, utilizing a repeated 60 degree angle.

Other analysts have detailed a possible astronomical dimension to the pattern of angles. If these analyses are correct a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics and geometry is displayed. This, combined with the skills to use such knowledge in a practical way, is somewhat unexpected for the time. David Dawson, director of Wiltshire Museum, describes the craftsmanship as “the work of the gods.”

David Dawson, director of Wiltshire Museum, describes the craftsmanship as ‘the work of the gods.’

A third importance of the finding of this piece, taking the possible implications of its remarkable design and manufacture into account, is whether this indicates some purposeful function for the piece. Is it just an objet d’art or does it have some practical application?

Is it just an objet d’art or does it have some practical application?

Design of the the Bush Barrow Lozenge, Bronze Age. (Public domain)
Design of the the Bush Barrow Lozenge, Bronze Age. (Public domain)

Even though the purpose of the golden lozenge remains unresolved there are the inevitable theories. Some are convinced it was an astronomical instrument which would logically be connected with the great stone circle. The astronomer Gerald Hawkins devised a theory that Stonehenge itself was used as a huge astronomical structure that could accurately measure solar and lunar movements, as well as eclipses.

Another researcher, Dr. Derek Cunningham, proposes that the geometrical structure of the lines is a form of astronomical writing. This theory suggests that, because the earliest astronomers did not have an alphabetical system to work with, they simply did the next best thing and that was to write down their astronomical values as angles. The pattern on the lozenge is then related to the astronomical writing and to some extent tested.

The Bush Barrow Lozenge is clearly consistent with the pattern being an archaic form of writing …
— Dr. Derek Cunningham

Although it might well be consistent with, this does not mean it is truly what the lozenge represents. It could be that the skills of an exceptional Bronze Age metal-worker were put to use simply to produce items of beauty that were fit for an individual of obvious high status. King or Priest, astronomer or architect, the debate continues.

This article has been republished with permission, read the original at Ancient-Origins.net.

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