Issue P024 of 14 December 2002

Is Scotland's Coronation Stone a Measurement Standard from the Middle Bronze Age?

F.J. Martin-Gil and P. Martin-Ramos and J. Martin-Gil
Laboratorio de Investigaciones sobre Conservacion del Patrimonio
University of Valladolid, ETSIA, Palencia, Spain

The Stone of Destiny as displayed in Edinburgh CastleScotland's Coronation Stone, 'The Stone of Destiny', is a 336 lb. lump of yellow sandstone, which is displayed in Edinburgh Castle since 1996, and for the past 700 years rests at Westminster Abbey in London. British and Scottish historians claim that the Stone of Destiny is the most ancient symbol of Scottish kingship. Legend has it that it was used by Jacob (17th century BC) as a pillow when he rested his head in Bethel, that it was guarded by Jeremiah (600 BC) and that it eventually reached Scotland (9th century) by way of Egypt, Spain and Ireland[1].

Many doubts have rounded the stone that is residing at Edinburg Castle; Is it the real Stone that came from Westminster? Was the Stone at Westminster the real Stone? Was the Stone from Spain the true Stone?

Indistinctly the Edinburgh Stone is the original or just a copy. We think that it holds the size of the original and that it keeps an immaterial secret (distance and/or weight units) whose disclosure is subject of this report. Nevertheless, since the observations that support our hypothesis are in line with what Alexander Thom has said (see below), we hope to receive similar criticisms.[2-6]

Working on menhir separation distances in megalithic monuments, Thom found a megalithic length unit that he denominated "megalithic yard" and whose relationship with our metric system is 1 megalithic yard = 32.66 inches = 0.829 m. Now, in a "math-magic" exercice, we have found that this dimension is exactly the lenght of the diagonal of the Stone of Destiny, a parallelepiped whose measures are 0.670 meter long, 0.420 meter broad and 0.265 meter thick. Our calculation, by cubical diagonal, has been inspired by the measurement by square diagonal of the Roman and Arab practice. In fact, Christian Ewert has found a system of interdependent diagonals measures, extremely sophisticated, in the Almohade mosque of Tinmal, to the south of Marrakech[7].

On the other hand, in a previous work on Eneolithic and Bronze Age weight units, based on ponderal kits found both at Mohenjo Daro by Wheeler[8] and at different archaeological sites in Europe by us[9], we have observed the existence of a weight unit-quantity that we named "megalithic obolos". The relationship of this old measure system with our metric system is 1 megalithic obolos = 0.836 g. Since the Stone of Destiny is 152 kilograms in weight, it is a quantity 180 times the megalithic obolos, a usual sexagesimal system multiple.

In view of earlier findings it seemed reasonably: (1) to think that the Stone of Destiny is a standard from the Bronze Age; and (2) to state a common factor for the relationships among old and actual measure units for length and weight: 0.832(0.004.

As support of our hypothesis of the Stone of Destiny being an old Jewish standard we have found some biblical paragraphs on the worry of the prophets of Israel by the standardization. Thus, we read: Enough, princes of Israel! ... Your scales shall be honest, your bushel (ephah) and your gallon (bath) shall be honest. There shall be one standard for each, taking each as the tenth of a homer, and the homer shall have its fixed standard. Your shekel weight shall contain 20 gerahs (Ezekiel, 45.9-12). And in Jeremiah, in a possible reference to the utility of the Stone: ... to plant and to build (Jer. 1:10).

If the Stone of Destiny is a weight and/or longitude standard (5-talent weight and/or 1 megalithic yard in diagonal) and, according to the legend, it was built at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1720 BC), we are before one of the first attempts at standardization. Thus, the Stone of Destiny should be 500 years more recent than the Sumerians standards (basalt statuettes of sleeping ducks with their correct weights, as the 2-talent weight from Lagash, c. 2260 BC) and oldest than the Egyptian standards from the Eighteenth Dinasty[10].

1. There are references to a 19th century written and oral tradition of Scotland.

2. RENFREW, C. and BAHN, P. 1991. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. Thames & Hudson, London and New York, pp 350-352.

3. ATKINSON, R. J.C. 1986. "Obituary: Alexander Thom." J. Hist. Astronom, 17(1): 73-75.

4. ANGELL, I. O. 1978. "Megalithic matematics, ancient almanacs or neolithic nonsense." Bull. Inst. Math. Appl., 14(10): 253-258.

5. VAN DER WAERDEN, B. L. 1985. "Geometry and algebra in ancient civilizations." British J. Hist. Sci., 18(59), 197-212.

6. TAYLOR, T. 2001. "Explanatory tyranny." Nature, 411, 419.

7. EWERT, C. 1986. "The Mosque of Tinmal (Morocco) and Some New Aspects of Islamic Architectural Typology." Proceedings of the British Academy, 72: 115-148.

8. WHEELER, M. 1968. The Indus Civilization. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

9. MARTIN-GIL F. J. et al. 1995. "Las pesas de telar: un sistema ponderal con base en la uncia." Acontia. Revista de Arqueologia, 1:73-86.

10. DILKE, O.A.W. 1987. Mathematics and Measurement.- Reading the past. The Trustees of the British Museum, British Museum Publications, London, p 46.

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