Stonehenge Builders Used Pythagoras’ Theorem 2,000 Years Before He Lived

Leah Hickman | Contributor to | Friday, June 22, 2018
Stonehenge Builders Used Pythagoras’ Theorem 2,000 Years Before He Lived

Stonehenge Builders Used Pythagoras’ Theorem 2,000 Years Before He Lived

This Thursday at dawn, thousands of people gathered at England’s famous ancient monument, Stonehenge, to celebrate the beginning of the summer solstice. The purpose behind this monument, built between 3000 and 1600 B.C., remains a mystery to historians. But, as Stonehenge enthusiasts know, the pillars of the monument are in just the right location to perfectly frame the rising sun on the day of the summer solstice.

According to the website EarthSky, “[I]f you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, facing northeast through the entrance towards a rough-hewn stone outside the circle—known as the Heel Stone—you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone.” For a stunning image of the alignment, view this article at EarthSky.

A few articles published this week about Stonehenge’s connection to the summer solstice bring up yet another interesting tidbit about the monument. “Many assume that cavemen built the monumental megalith in Wilshire,” writes Sean Martin at Express, “but new evidence suggests that brainiacs could have been behind the building of Stonehenge.” This book, Megalith, takes a look at the geometry of the monument, postulating that the builders likely used the Pythagorean Theorem to build Stonehenge. 

The crazy part is that Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher who came up with the theorem (which says that “the sum areas of two squares on two sides of a triangle will always add up to the area of a square on the hypotenuse”) wasn’t born until 2,000 years later, in 570 B.C.

If the author is right, then this poses an issue for the common view that people at that time were primitive beasts, just a step up from apes. As one contributor to the book, John Matineau, explained, “People think of our ancestors as rough cavemen but they were applying Pythagorean geometry over 2,000 years before Pythagoras was born.” Sorry, Pythagoras. You’re not as original as you thought you were.


Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She freelances for and has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/inigofotografia

Publication date: June 22, 2018