Book Review: Canada’s Stonehenge, by Gordon R. Freeman
Kingsley Publishing, Calgary, 2009, 293 pages
(review by Terry J. Deveau)
This is a wonderful book. It is filled with many wonders of very different kinds. It is also challenging on many different levels; and challenging to review. There is so much more to this book than one would guess from the title, or even from the subtitle: Astounding Archaeological Discoveries in Canada, England, and Wales. The author has a mastery of his subject that comes from a lifetime of intimate and meticulous development, of which the book is an attractively crafted summation. The book itself is beautifully arranged and magnificently illustrated; even the choice of paper and typesetting are immediately impressive.
Freeman is a scientist, in every sense of the term, but mostly in the oldest and truest sense. His formal career, for many years Chairman of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Alberta, has been in the interdisciplinary field of Kinetics of Nonhomogeneous Processes, where complex physical systems are investigated through pattern recognition and where novel, insightful thinking is required to obtain results. Freeman brings that same investigative approach, naturally, to his study of archaeoastronomy, but also a deep reverence for the people and cultures that constructed the ancient temples, as well as for their descendents today.
This book primarily reports important discoveries that Freeman has made of the authentic and surprising astronomical accuracy of two extremely ancient solar/lunar horizon sighting calendar devices; one, a mostly unknown “medicine wheel” on a remote prairie in Alberta, Canada, and the other, the ultra-famous Stonehenge megalithic complex on the Salisbury Plain in central England; not insignificantly, as it turns out, nearly at equal latitude. These discoveries were made gradually and methodically, over a period of many years of systematic and very careful on-site observations of not just the rise/set horizon events and alignments, but all aspects of the geography, topography, history, archaeology, and mythology that provide clues to understanding the function and design of these ancient masterpieces.
Along the way, Freeman offers a vast array of other insights and personal anecdotes to delight, enthrall, illuminate, and educate the reader in unexpected subjects. A large number of other ancient sites are also briefly discussed, which Freeman has also visited and investigated, prominently including Preseli Mountain, Wales (the source of the famous Bluestones of Stonehenge) and Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
There are so many important insights in this book, and their development for the reader is so masterful, that it almost seems inappropriate to give them short shrift in a review. But to briefly mention two, perhaps the most important, would be that solar/lunar rise/set horizon events can only be precisely measured by means of the first/last flash (and the ancient alignments prove that the original skywatchers understood this) and that the modern notion of equinox is physically unobservable, except in a uselessly casual way, but that the ancient skywatchers instead observed the true and precise directly opposed east/west rise/set directions as significant calendar dates (which are surprisingly different from our modern equinox dates). You must read the book, actually the entire book, to really grasp what this means and why it’s important.
Freeman has masterfully dispersed his teaching over the whole book, almost like a literary hologram. You can read any page, or any chapter, and learn some amazing information and enjoy the story he tells there, but it is only when the book is taken as a whole, or on a second reading even, that the complete clarity of the various insights Freeman has to impart coalesce into sharp focus. As one reads this book, one feels challenged by various points or approaches that Freeman makes at times. Read on to the end, and then reread the book a second time. Freeman does not make any statement frivolously. His reasoning and methods run much deeper than the book has room to present; but if the reader is humble enough to keep his mind open throughout, much can be learned. Highly recommended without hesitation or qualification.