November 8, 2017 at 9:16 pm #20371
Goseck Circle and Neolithic Sun Worship Sites
Built in 4,900 BC, Goseck Circle is regarded as the oldest solar observatory in Europe, pre-dating Stonehenge by some 2,000 years. Spanning over 200ft, Goseck Circle aligns most prominently to the winter solstice sunrise and sunset, featuring other astronomical alignments as well.
Goseck circle was discovered in 1991, when an aerial survey revealed discoloration under a field of wheat. Following the increase in aerial surveys, hundreds more enclosures have been discovered across Europe. Neolithic Enclosures are associated with the ‘stroke-ornamented ware’ (or STK) time period (named for the pottery style associated with it), a time period lasting from around 4600 to 4400 BC. According to archaeologists (1) these circles appeared suddenly in great number (over 800 have been catalogued), and were abandoned just 200 years later. To date, very few have been excavated or studied, and Goseck circle is the only one to be reconstructed to its original state.
Map by Alexrk2 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
The circle itself consists of 4 distinct rings. On the outside is an earthen mound 230ft in diameter, and just inside of it a v-shaped ditch, 10ft wide at the top, and 10ft deep. Inside this enclosure stand two rows of wooden palisades, approximately 12ft apart. These tightly-joined timbers form a wall around the entire enclosure. Paths at three separate points in the circle lead inward, with openings through the concentric rings of the circles. The path to the north curves east in the direction of the nearby settlement.
The People and Culture
Very little is known about the people and culture who built Gosseck circle. The Stroke Ornamented Ware culture (or “STK”, for short) was a part and development of the LTK (Linear Pottery Culture), the first people known to use agriculture in Europe. They are believed to have been a peaceful people, living in small villages of longhouses, and subsisting on agriculture and livestock. The remains of a number of buildings found to the immediate east and south of Goseck Circle indicate that the area likely served as a permanent settlement (4), of which the circle was the religious center. Fire pits near the solstice entrances, as well as deposits of symbolic items such as stone knives, pots, and seeds, point to the ceremonial use of the circle at the winter solstice.
Genetic evidence suggests that the LTK culture immigrated from the East along the Danube river, possibly from as far as Turkey (known then as Anatolia). It’s not hard to imagine that the culture that built Goseck circle was connected to or descended from the inhabitants of Turkey who built Göbleki Tepe, even though Goseck circle was built nearly 4,000 years later. The STK culture disappeared from the area rather suddenly, most likely following climate changes and a dwindling supply of land for cattle grazing (2).
Connection to the Nebra Sky Disk
Another 3,000 years later, a different culture celebrated the winter solstice in the same area. A unique artifact—the Nebra sky disk—was found less than 40km from Goseck circle at another prehistoric site with solstice alignments. The golden arcs on the disk have the same angle as the entrances to Goseck circle, indicating the winter and summer solstices for that latitude, showing that these were important events in the region throughout pre-history. Also buried with the sky disk were two swords, two axes, and two spiral arm bands, all objects with deep symbolism related to the solstices and equinoxes.
The below video shows an animation depicting the solstice sunrise and sunsets at the Mittelberg hill enclosure where the Nebra sky disk was found.
Alignments and Symbolism
The southeast and southwest entrances align precisely to the winter solstice sunrise and sunset, allowing a shaft of light to enter the circle. Goseck circle also sits on the same latitude as Stonehenge, giving it the same property where the moon rests directly overhead at major lunar standstills. The shape and construction of the circle itself appears to symbolize the nativity, the birth of the spiritual Son (Christ).
“Incredibly, at the ancient neolithic site of Newgrange in Ireland, the winter solstice sunlight enters an otherwise giant dark mound precisely at sunrise. The ray of light illuminates the chamber… The son is born as the sun into the mound, which acts as the womb.” (The Spiritual Sun, p.143)
Like Newgrange, Goseck circle features a circular mound (although in this case in the shape of a ring). A similar ditch and mound structure at Averbery was found to have an “insulating” acoustic effect, cutting off sounds outside of the circle (3). Any effect we perceive today, would have been stronger before erosion wore down the original height of the mound, and would have enhanced the ‘womb-like’ feeling of the enclosure.
The four rings of the enclosure carry the symbolism deeper, as four is a significant number, particularly at the winter solstice:
“The number four is found related to the winter solstice and the process of creation throughout the world…
Four forms the foundation of life and encompasses the bounds of creation. It is found in the four cardinal directions; the four points of the cross of the year, which are the solstices and equinoxes; the four elements; the dimensions of our physical world which are length, width, height, and time; and the four material bodies within each person—physical, vital, astral, and mental.
The fourth dimension is time, which is needed for beings to be able to become conscious of their own existence. Within our three-dimensional world, we find life manifest in form an substance in the flow of time. Thus, in creation, the Son who is one of the three forces of creation establishes the four, which is the foundation of life and found in the movement of the sun, forming a cross of four arms and the rotating swastika.
Whilst providing opportunity for learning and awakening, matter also forms a prison that restricts consciousness, as the number four establishes bounds and limits, just like the four walls of a prison. Whilst the Son is born into the prison, he comes to free us from it—liberating a person eventually into the realms of the spirit where they attain immortality beyond the constraints of matter.” (The Spiritual Sun, p.155-156)
“Krishna is born at the winter solstice into a prison. This symbolizes the birth of the Son into the physical body, which to the divine is likened to a prison because of its constraints and material nature.” (The Spiritual Sun, p.144)
Thus, the four rings symbolize both the womb from which the spiritual Son (symbolized by the rising Sun) is born, and the “prison” (the human body) into which the Son comes to liberate the consciousness.
The depositions of clay pots, and seeds found near the southern entrances also appear to be significant. The pots, likely containing water or wine, and along with the seeds could have been used to represent the dawn of creation, and our spiritual potential.
“Within us are planted the seeds of the sun. The spiritual sun that arose at the dawning of creation has deposited its seeds within our own primordial waters, our creative sexual energies, which is the void and deep at the beginning of creation, sparkling with the electricity of unrealized possibilities. These seeds contain the blueprint of the bodies of the sun and a totally new spiritual being within us, just a tiny seed contains the genetic blueprint for the form of every plant, animal and human being. This is why the ancient Incas associated corn (their staple seed) with the sun, and revered it as something sacred.” [The Spiritual Sun p.135]
These incredible symbols come together to symbolize the birth of the spiritual Son on a cosmic level, as the creation of the universe, and the birth of the Son on an individual level, as the birth of the spiritual within.
Besides the winter solstice alignments, which are the most obvious, there are also small gaps in the wooden palisades that align to the summer solstice sunrise and sunset.
Fly-over of Goseck circle
Walk through Goseck (in French)
November 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #20420
- Biehl, Peter F. “Measuring Time in the European Neolithic? The Function and Meaning of Central European Circular Enclosures.” The Archaeology of Measurement: Comprehending Heaven, Earth and Time in Ancient Societies, edited by Iain Morley and Colin Renfrew, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010, pp. 229–244.
- Ebersbach, R./Schade, C. (2004): Modelling the Intensity of Linear Pottery Land Use. ¬ An Example from the Mörlener Bucht in the Wetterau Basin, Hesse, Germany. In: Stadtarchäologie Wien (Hrsg.), Enter The Past. CAA 2003. BAR Int. Series 1227 (Oxford 2004), p. 337 and CD
Cool, thanks for compiling and posting all that info Julian.
Also reading more in the link you posted about acoustics and the echo effect makes me think of how a ceremony observance would be made that much more special in such a place. It would be interesting to go there and hear for oneself what it really sounds like (as of course the description of it is just never the same), and/or perhaps try to take it into account and try to recreate it in any future sacred sites that are built.November 12, 2017 at 3:53 am #20544
Nice comprehensive overview, thanks Julian.
Goseck circle reminds me a bit of the main mound at Mounds State Park in Indiana which I visited. It has a raised embankment, so perhaps it was also designed with acoustics in mind.
Incidentally I’ve heard about semi-circle shaped walls being able to carry sound extremely well such that in some cases if someone whispers at one end you can hear it clearly at the other end.November 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm #20560
@jon and the whispering walls. Yes I’ve experienced this myself once in a more modern cathedral in London. Where at the base of a 30 meter dome it was said that speech could travel to the person on the other side. I was being quite stubborn actually 🙂 because I didn’t believe it was true. One of my friends went all the way to the other side and astonishingly we could communicate with each other! A whisper and snake like hiss voice seemed to travel best in that case. It was nice to be proven wrong actually just when I thought I’d had the world figured out.November 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm #21037
Thanks for posting about Goseck circle. It is a simple but very interesting site, particularly because it seems to be so much older than the stone circles that are so famous in Europe.
It is a shame that Goseck Circle has been reconstructed. I am torn about whether it is good or not. On the one hand it is good to see the sites as being used for religious purposes. On the other hand reconstruction/adjustment brings elements into the site that were not there originally, and risks destroying something important that existed in the past.
I see reconstruction and modification constantly, as cultures now and in the past built on ancient sites. I also see it in me, in the desire to adjust places of reverence to my own understanding of how they should be.
Out of respect for the original builders of ancient sites I try to find original elements from the topography of the landscape, because they do not get modified easily, and can often tell about original alignments as well as symbols.November 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm #21045
Reconstructing or fixing a site has its pros and cons. On the one hand, things can be lost and changed inadvertently (or worse purposefully, to destroy evidence that doesn’t fit with the historical narrative).
That said, Goseck circle was very carefully excavated and documented, and the size and positions of the posts correspond that of the originals. With the posts in place, the scale of the site is really put into perspective, you can get a feel of what it would have been like there more easily, and it attracts tourists to help fund the conservation and study. If it hadn’t been excavated, studied and reconstructed, it would likely still be part of a wheat field, so I think it depends on the individual case.November 29, 2017 at 9:26 am #21050
Goseck Circle was one of those sites that I’d heard about a lot but hadn’t understood clearly what it was until now; and I hadn’t realised its link to the Nebra Sky Disk either. The circle reminds me a lot of Avebury, with the ditch and bank; the two must be on a similar latitude. It’s wonderful to imagine a whole community of people living around this central focus, and living lives entwined with the solar movements and even their inner spiritual meaning.
That map identifying similar sites in Europe is also good to see; so many places undiscovered.
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