Shadows, Stones and Solstices


  • Olwyn Pritchard University of Wales Trinity Saint David



landscape phenomenology, prehistoric monuments, shadow phenomena, skyscapes, standing stone pairs, west Wales


This paper records the results of a survey of stone pairs in southwest Wales. The aim of the research was to determine whether the positioning of the megaliths could reflect an intention on the part of the builders to mark particular points in the solar year. The author hypothesises that some of the sites were constructed in such a way as to facilitate the creation of a particular shadow phenomenon within the confines of the monument itself, designed to be viewed at one or both solstices. During the course of the study, it became apparent that the locations of some monuments also facilitated observations of solstice sunrises or sunsets coinciding with topographical features (such as hills or outcrops) on the local horizon, in addition to the shadow phenomena. There was also some, although less, indication of an interest in the equinoxes.


Download data is not yet available.


Archwilio -

Benson, D.G., Evans, J.G., Williams, G.H., Darvill, T, and David, A. 1990. Excavations at Stackpole Warren, Dyfed. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 56, 179-245.

Burl, A. 1993. From Carnac to Callanish – The Prehistoric Stone Rows of Britain, Ireland and Brittany. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Cleave Books Triangle Calculating Tool - Coflein -

Cunliffe, B. 2000. Facing the Ocean. Routledge, London.

Dickson, C.A. & Tram, N.M. 2015. Stones, Hilltops, Water and the Sun: A preliminary investigation into the orientations of standing stones near the River Alaw, Anglesey. Archaeology in Wales 54, (in press)

Hensey, R. 2015. First Light – The origins of Newgrange. Oxbow Books, Oxford and Philadelphia

Kirk, T. & Williams, G. 2000. Glandy Cross: A Later Prehistoric Monumental Complex in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 66, 257-295

Lewis, J. 1966. The Standing Stones of Pembrokeshire. The Pembrokeshire Historian : Journal of the Pembrokeshire Local History Society. No.2, p.7-18 (10-11)

Lewis, J.M. 1974. Excavations at Rhos-y-Clegyrn prehistoric site, St Nicholas, Pembrokeshire. Archaeolgia Cambrensis 123, 13-42.

Lomsdalen, T. 2014. Sky and Purpose in Prehistoric Malta: Sun, Moon, and Purpose at the Temples of Mnajdra. Sophia Centre Press, Ceredigion, Wales.

Marriott, C. SkyMap Pro 11 – astronomy software.

Martlew, R.D. & Ruggles, C. 1996. Ritual and Landscape on the West Coast of Scotland: An Investigation of the Stone Rows of Northern Mull. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 62. 117-31 (1)

Meaden, G.T. 2016. Drombeg Stone Circle, South-West Ireland: Design plan analyzed with respect to sunrises and lithic shadow-casting for the eight traditional agricultural festival dates, and further validated by photography. Journal of Lithic Studies. Volume 3. (2)

Meaden, G.T. 2016. Stonehenge and Avebury: Megalithic shadow casting at the solstices. Journal of Lithic Studies. Volume 3.

Mörner, N.A. 2015. Ales Stones in SE Sweden: A Solar Calendar from the Late Bronze Age. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2 (2015) 437-448

Williams, G.1988. The Standing Stones of Wales and Southwest England. Oxford, BAR 197.



How to Cite

Pritchard, O. (2017). Shadows, Stones and Solstices. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 2(2), 145–164.



Research Articles