What is a lunar standstill? Problems of accuracy and validity in ‘the Thom paradigm’.


Sims, Lionel Duke 2006. What is a lunar standstill? Problems of accuracy and validity in ‘the Thom paradigm’. Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry, Special Issue. 6 (3), pp. 157-163.
AuthorsSims, Lionel Duke

North West European late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (EBA) monumental
alignments on the sun’s solstices and the moon’s standstills were first
systematically studied by Thom (Thom 1971). Later research, since labelled
‘the Thom paradigm’ (Ruggles 1999), has rejected Thom’s eclipse prediction
and calendrical theories for these ancient alignments, yet retained his
definition of a lunar standstill as the ‘geocentric extreme declination’ of the
moon (Heggie 1981a, Heggie 1981b, Hoskin 2001, Morrison 1980, North
1996, Ruggles 1999, Thom 1971). Thom suggested that prehistoric
‘extrapolation devices’ calculated this midtransit
property of the moon from
observed horizon alignments, but subsequent research has found no
evidence for such devices. While a midtransit
definition of a lunar standstill is
an accurate specification of the phenomena, it is based upon the premises of
modern heliocentric astronomy and is unlikely to provide valid interpretations
of the monument builder’s use of horizon ‘astronomy’. This paper attempts to
demonstrate that the current theories used to explain the late Neolithic/EBA
function of lunar standstill alignments do not fit the horizon, and therefore
megalithic user, properties of lunar standstills. It is argued that a recent model
(Sims 2006b) is more consistent with the archaeology and ‘astronomy’ of
horizon aligned
monuments, and with any ethnographic elaboration of the
Thom paradigm.

Keywordssolstices; astronomy; Neolithic archaeology
JournalMediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry, Special Issue
Journal citation6 (3), pp. 157-163
Accepted author manuscript
Web address (URL)http://www.rhodes.aegean.gr/maa_journal/issues2006c.html
Publication dates
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Deposited12 Apr 2010
Additional information

Sims, L. (2006) ‘What is a lunar standstill? Problems of accuracy and validity in ‘the Thom paradigm’’. Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry, Special Issue 6 (3) 157-163..

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