Thanks to Charles for linking the short clip below:
Henges: Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury & Stanton Drew from Michael Bott on Vimeo.
Bott suggests that some of the henges could be the structural precursors to a number of ancient venues, using as a loose example the Amphitheatrum Flavium, itself having a recent architectural lineage by way of Classical Greece. At 4:22 he compares the structure of Stanton Drew with the substructure of the Flavian Amphitheater, suggesting that the close timbers may have been piers for decking.
It's possible that when large numbers of people converged on a single site like Stonehenge (as a bad example) that the archaeological indication of multi-day feasting could have been a sort of religious sports-orgy, such as those of a number of ancient cultures. Lacking satisfyingly abundant sacrificial or burial remains, some round monuments are often called calendars or observatories; but that still doesn't tell us procedurally 'what actually happened' when the monuments were being used. Bott wonders if the 'what actually happened' were blood-sports, such as those of the Roman Era.
Since many of the Atlantic monuments seem to be oriented around the sun [recent article], we might want to consider activities that would be becoming of a proper sun worshiper. So here I've considered two very different cultures a world away just to give an example of what kind of worship might be pleasing to a solar deity of the Beaker Age. (not suggesting any relationship with the following)
|Woodland Lacrosse "The Warrior's Game" by Robert Griffing [here]|
Another solar game is Meso-American handball, which probably descended from the same ancestor as the Woodland ball games. The rubber ball comes to represent a living version of the sun in a cosmic battle that took place before the time of men. The stone scoring ring, as seen below, represents the equinox through which the sun passes.
The ball court itself, the tlachtli, is more than just a sports stadium. It is a solar portal oriented with the sky that literally transports the players into the cosmological realm. It is here that the death and re-birth of the sun is re-enacted and the fertility of a nation can be ensured through the sacrifice of players.
Whether lacrosse or ullamaliztili, these were formalized, high-stakes events, not only for the players but for the treaties and wagers made on the game. In the case of ullamaliztili, the sanctioned games by the Classical Period appear to have ended with the beheading of losing team captain and often, the entire losing team. Also [here]
|"ullamaliztli" - The ball "sun" spiked through the stone ring "the equinox"|
These European competitions were often religious in nature; and that begs the question: if we reasonably assume that sport events were one of the most central pillars in the life of a Neolithic European, shouldn't we see some evidence of this in the landscape? No one is suggesting that this is going to be the case, but if we look at monuments again, could they be?
Michael Bott considers round monuments with embankments. He wonders if the ditched embankment enclosures were designed for venationes, such as a bull ring, or a rodeo ring. It's worth considering that European stick-and-ball games typically have round courts or infields as well. In the English language, boxers fight in a boxing 'ring', even though modern rings are square. Most European combat sports are now, or were at one time, fought in a circular enclosure.
There are also other unusual structures found in Europe, such as the cursuses and holed-stones.
Of course there may be better explanations for some of these, but if we had a number of Neolithic monuments, let's say a thousand, there should be a high logical probability that a certain percentage had events taking place that spectators might actually want to watch!
Here is an interesting bit of information about Stonehenge... There are now about a hundred and fifty images discovered on the Stonehenge sarsen stones from the second millennium. What are they? deer? stick people? boats? cows?
Unless there are images that I've missed, all of them are axes and daggers.
...and they continue to be found. These are just the ones that haven't faded or remain to be discovered. What's interesting is how the daggers and axes are sequentially listed on the sarsen stones, much like a tally.
|Papi Boyington, American Ace pilot|
More on the Roman coliseum [Link]