Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, and Machu Picchu are just a few of the ancient monuments that are said to be connected by mysterious invisible pathways called ley lines. Given how little we know about these spectacular but enigmatic places, it has sometimes been difficult for scientists to completely refute this theory or offer alternative explanations as to why they were built exactly where they are. At the same time, however, no convincing evidence has ever been provided to confirm the existence of this invisible mystical grid. To further complicate matters, there is no consensus on what ley lines actually are, with some believers proposing that they may have been ancient trade routes, while others think that aliens are somehow involved. From a scientific perspective, it is a very rocky terrain.
The concept of ley lines was first proposed by English antiquarian Alfred Watkins in 1925. In his book “The Old Straight Track,” Watkins revealed that the idea came to him while traveling through the Herefordshire countryside one day, when he suddenly noticed that ancient monuments seemed to be arranged in a grid of straight lines that stood out like luminous threads across the county’s surface. In an attempt to prove his point by highlighting alignments between burial mounds, stone crosses, churches, sacred wells, standing stones, hills, and other landmarks, Watkins suggested that these features had been deliberately built along straight paths so that Stone Age traders could follow the most direct route between settlements.
Almost immediately, however, the archaeological community saw numerous inconsistencies. For example, the fact that Watkins used maps to illustrate these alignments made him blind to the fact that, in the real world, many of these landmarks were separated by high hills, dense forests, or rivers, often making it impossible to follow a straight path from one point to another.
Even more significant, though, is the density of these features in the English landscape, which means that it is practically impossible to draw a line on a map without touching at least some of these points. In other words, the accidental alignment of monuments is inevitable given their abundance, so even mentioning this distribution pattern is pointless.
Rejected by the scientific community, Watkins’ ley lines idea reached a dead end, but then the 1960s arrived. In 1961, former military pilot Tony Wedd reignited the flame by suggesting that ley lines had been traced by ancient monument builders to provide landing strips for alien spacecraft. Supporters of this theory swear that UFO sightings are most commonly reported directly above these ley lines, although, unsurprisingly, no one has ever presented any evidence to support this.
However, it wasn’t until 1969 that the idea really took off, largely thanks to John Michell’s New Age book “The View Over Atlantis,” in which he introduced the concept of earth energies. Speaking to IFLScience, archaeologist Dr. Robert Wallis of the Open University explained that the idea is that these are sort of spiritual arteries of the planet, and there is a belief that through psychic awareness or dowsing, especially at ancient sites, it is possible to perceive these energies. The idea behind earth energies is therefore that ancient societies were somehow more attuned to these ley lines that crisscross the landscape and built their monuments directly on these sacred paths. With the spread of the idea, a community of so-called ley hunters emerged in the UK, whose members could often be seen wandering around Neolithic sites holding dowsing rods in an attempt to detect these earth energies.
In the 1970s, Paul Devereux – who at the time was the editor of the Ley Hunter magazine – established a research initiative called The Dragon Project to scientifically investigate these alleged mysterious power centers (we’ll talk more about it later). Wallis, who joined the project in the early 2000s, says that the popularity of the concept of earth energies probably has something to do with the fact that it challenged people to try to connect with this force on their own. “One of the reasons why it’s a particularly powerful idea, whether it’s reliable or not, is because it’s something that anyone can try,” he said. “Anyone can go to a mysterious ancient site with a pair of dowsing rods and do a bit of dowsing and the rods move. It’s something you can experience for yourself.”
When the Dragon Project was launched in 1977, Devereux and his multidisciplinary team of scientists hoped to find solid evidence for the existence of earth energies. For the first decade of the project’s existence, they went from ancient site to ancient site in search of anomalous readings of ionizing radiation, magnetism, and other invisible forces. Focusing most of their attention on a Neolithic site called the Rollright Stones, the team used techniques including infrared photography and ultrasound to try to detect these energies.
After ten years of research, however, the researchers ultimately found nothing to suggest that earth energies are actually a thing, despite obtaining some interesting readings here and there. For example, Wallis says there were increases in radioactivity at some sites, but there are no definite patterns that carry more weight than others. In addition to these scientific methods, the Dragon Project also recruited dowsers to try to detect electromagnetism at these sites using their rods. Even they, however, were unable to detect anything that could suggest the presence of ley lines.
Not ready to give up, the project directors decided to change course in 1987 and focus their efforts on “dreamwork.” This essentially involved asking volunteers to sleep at ancient sites to see how it affected their dreams. It is unclear how this approach could ever be used to prove the existence of earth energies or ley lines, although unsurprisingly, the experiment yielded no useful data. Ultimately, the results were that, yes, it seemed that sleeping at prehistoric sites did bring about some interesting dream phenomena. But again, no patterns, Wallis said. And it’s hard to say whether that was because someone was sleeping in a very strange place where they’re not used to sleeping, which would probably inspire some strange dreams. So that was the main reason why Paul Devereux and the Dragon Project Trust moved away from ley lines and the idea of earth energies. The concept of energetic ley lines crisscrossing the landscape may not align with scientific facts, but some ley line enthusiasts continue to argue that prehistoric sites were built in alignment with each other. To support their argument, many point to the popular “St. Michael line,” which supposedly connects a large number of monuments dedicated to the Archangel Michael, including the iconic St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, spanning approximately 350 miles (563 kilometers) of territory.
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