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Stonehenge, UK
Stonehenge. Credit: garethwiscombe (CC BY 2.0)


Following the 1921 publication of Alfred Watkins' book The Old Straight Track adherents to dowsing and New Age beliefs claimed Stonehenge stands on the intersection of numerous leys (lines connecting ancient sites which resonate a special 'energy').

To prove this is nonsense mathematician Matt Parker did a similar analysis using the locations of the 800 branches of Woolworths. He found that they could also be mapped onto precise geometrical patterns with the same level of accuracy. He claimed (tongue in cheek) that this pinpoint accuracy suggested that Woolworths managers positioned the stores as a form of 'landmark satnav' allowing travellers to find their nearest pick'n'mix outlet. He could also not rule out the possibility that alien help was required to position stores this precisely and to offer the Ladybird clothing range at such low prices.

The overall conclusion is that henges may have been used for rituals or astronomical observation but their alignment is highly variable and may have been more determined by local topology than by desire for symbolic orientation.

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