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Heathen Archaeology - Some Thoughts

Updated: Jan 25

Most who come to Heathenry were not born to Heathen parents. While I became Heathen around the age of 30, I was born into a christian home myself, and went to a christian seminary, completing a Masters Degree at the age of 25. I studied in Israel at 59 digs/tels as part of that program. While biblical archaeology is different from Germanic archaeology, the fields are not that different. One obvious difference is that Runic carvings in beechwood made in Old Saxon lands, would not survive the Germanic weather and forests for 1,900 years, but in Israel, scrolls like the Dead Sea Scrolls can survive largely intact for 1,900 years in caves due to the dry climate in the Levant.

I should add a disclaimer upfront. Biblical archaeology has a certain level of pressure. Atheists are cheering for the bible to be disproven, theists are looking for their faith re-affirmed. Archaeologists in the Levant get stuck in the middle of that debate. There is no such thing as "Heathen archaeology." Archaeologists are really not looking for religious fact, but looking at the evidence through a historical lens. End of disclaimer... Let me start with a site like Stonehenge. Stonehenge proves that ancient neolithic peoples knew when the winter solstice was. Stonehenge would not prove to an archaeologist that those at Stonehenge ignored the moon. So many people scream at me saying "Stonehenge proves a solstice Yule." No, Stonehenge does not. Nor does Stonehenge prove that those who built the site were not using a lunisolar calendar. Stonehenge proves without doubt, solstices were known to ancient people. Sites like Stonehenge were needed because the naked eye cannot tell when the Solstice is. The naked eye can certainly tell when a moon is full or when the moon is dark, and when a moon has a new crescent. No Stonehenge is needed to see the lunar phases in the sky, our naked eyes can see that. Jumping to the conclusion that those who built Stonehenge followed a strictly solar calendar is completely incorrect. I have been asked "Robert, why then, tell me, that there are no moon rings like there are solar rings." In this blog I already answered that question, because the naked eye can tell when a moon is full and when it is not full. The naked eye cannot tell the date of the solstice.

Some scholars argue these stone circles (like Stonehenge), mainly found in the British Isles, but also a few in continental Europe, are linked to BOTH the sun and the moon. [Scarre, Chris (October 2011). "Monumentality". In Insoll, Timothy (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 18–19.]

The internet is rife with mis-information. You can easily find websites that claim we have archaeological evidence of human sacrifice at Stonehenge, and other websites say we do not. However, there are "Stonehenge" type sites in continental Europe, where there is evidence for sacrifice. However, even if we find evidence of animal sacrifice at a continental site that shows when the solstice was, this doesn't mean that we can claim that these sacrifices were ONLY done on solar dates at this site. Evidence of sacrifice is just that, but one cannot tell the specific day of the year that a sacrifice was made. I find it very odd that so many claim that ancient Heathens only paid attention to the sun, and did not pay attention to the other celestial bodies. A site like Stonehenge doesn't prove that its builders ignored the moon. I would argue the opposite, people who wanted to know when the Solstice certainly paid attention to the moon in the sky as well.

I was amazed at archaeologists during my time in Israel. If they found a piece of pottery, they were able to send it to chemists and geologists, who determined the exact area of ground the clay was taken from, and even what temperature the kiln was set at that baked the pottery. Tel's in ancient Canaan/Israel had layers. Towns in those times were built in areas where people could defend themselves, near travel ways, and near water. This is why towns like Megiddo (Armageddon) were rebuilt after they were destroyed. At Tel Megiddo, you can see that archaeologists dug a vertical trench on one side of the tel, to identify the destruction layers. When Megiddo was destroyed, it was rebuilt, and there were 39 different layers we looked at when I was a student there. Each destruction layer could be accurately dated based on pottery fragments and coinage found in each layer of the tel. Archaeology is a fascinating field.

I do not claim to be an archaeological expert. Just because I studied it in my Masters Degree program doesn't make me an expert. One thing that I do know, is those in the field of archaeology are typically pretty smart, and what is reported about them in the media is not always accurate. If people want to jump to the conclusion sites like Stonehenge proves that calendars were solar, and the moon and other celestial bodies were ignored, I guess they have a right to their opinion. Not all opinions are factual. Here is a picture of historically accurate Saxon Heathen clothing, based on archaeological finds: (Picture is my own, taken at Archäologische Freilichtmuseum in Oerlinghausen.)

The sign immediately below, I translate here: "Matching clothes for hand and foot. The needle binding technique (or nail binding) works in rounds like hooking or knitting. This automatically creates an elastic hull shape. By omitting or adding stitches, socks, gloves and the like can be used; adapted exactly to body shapes, and to shrink when walking and grasping as little as possible. In the early Middle Ages, in addition to bound-shoes, there were shoes and boots made of a single piece of leather with an additional but separate piece for the sole. They were turned inside-out so that the seams in the finished shoe were inside. To reinforce the sole, the (extra piece of leather) was nailed."

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