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Externsteine Rocks Neolithic Astronomical Observatory

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Bielefeld, Germany.

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Located in the Teutoburg district, the sacred heartland of Germany, the Externsteine rocks were known as a place of pilgrimage in prehistoric, Celtic and early Saxon times. Pagan rituals were performed here until the 8th century AD, when Charles the Great cut down the sacred Irmensul tree, the German tree of life and symbol of the old religion. The earliest historical mention of Externsteine comes from the 12th century when the site came under the control of a nearby Benedictine monastery. A series of artificial caves, which had been carved into the base of the sandstone spires in ancient times, were enlarged and used as dwellings for Christian hermits and monks.

Atop the tallest rock spire are the well preserved remains of an enigmatic prehistoric temple. Different theories have been suggested concerning the identity of the temple's builders and the use to which it was put. Some have described the shrine as a Mithraeum, or sanctuary for Roman soldiers adhering to the Persian cult of Mithras, while other scholars believe that such deities as the Germanic Teut, the Nordic Wodan, or the Bructerian prophetess Veleda were worshipped in the sanctuary. What is known with certainty however, is that the temple was constructed according to astronomical orientations. The round window-like opening shown in the photograph has been demonstrated to have significant celestial alignments, including a view of the moon at its northern extreme and the sun at sunrise on the summer solstice.

More on Externsteine Rocks from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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