Stonehenge was an ancient Mecca on stilts, says former museum director

Stonehenge’s megaliths were not used for ceremonies at ground level, but rather as part of ‘an ancient Mecca on stilts,’ says former director of several British museums Julian Spalding.

The giant stones probably supported a circular wooden platform where ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens i.e. the stars in the sky, Mr. Spalding believes.

The controversial maverick art critic, writer, broadcaster and former curator argues that the stones were the foundations for a ‘great altar’ created to support the weight of hundreds of people who worshipped towards the heavens.

Art of Wonder

Spalding’s new book has been met with scepticism from several critics and experts. (Image: Amazon)

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr. Spalding said:

“It’s a totally different theory which has never been put forward before,” Spalding told the Guardian. “All the interpretations to date could be mistaken.”


“We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way: from the earth, which is very much a 20th-century viewpoint. We haven’t been thinking about what they were thinking about.”

According to archaeologists, Stonehenge was probably built between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Radiocarbon dating carried out in 2008 suggested the first stones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC. Another theory places the raising of the stones nearer to 3000 BC.

Theories on Stonehenge abound

For centuries people have put forward theories on how Stonehenge’s giant stones got there and what they were for – many theories, ranging from feasible to bizarre.

Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100 – c. 1155) believed the stones had been flown in from Ireland by the wizard Merlin. Others suggested it could have been a place where sick people were brought to be healed by the magic bluestones – a prehistoric Lourdes.

Mr. Spalding believes historians and archaeologists made the mistake of looking down instead of upward when thinking up theories about Stonehenge.

He points to evidence from ancient civilizations across the world. Ancient monuments in Turkey, Peru and China, for example, were built high up, and in circular arrangements probably to resemble celestial movements.


Spalding suggests that Stonehenge’s megaliths supported a giant wooden platform that withstood the weight of hundreds of worshipers.

Mr. Spalding said:

“In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be. The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.”

“All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth. That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.”

All this is mentioned in Mr. Spalding’s new book “Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding – The Origins of Art”, which is being launched today (March 16, 2015).

In the new book he writes that the Pyramids were not primarily support structures for temples or tombs, but reasilsations of the “massive forces that were believed to bind the flat world together.”

He also mentions Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, explaining that it was not primarily a display of superhuman genius, but rather a triumphant reassertion that heaven was still above us though the Earth was a sphere.

“Munch’s The Scream caught the world’s imagination not just as an image of human angst but because it was also a depiction of the last symbolic sunset, for everyone now knew that the sun didn’t set. The veil of beauty that had enchanted creation till then had been torn asunder by the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment,” Mr. Spalding wrote in his book.