10,000 'Festival' Goers At Garn Goch?
It's big, Garn Goch, and big for the simple reason that it needed to be. You don't build Wembley Stadium for a maximum crowd of 10,000, or the whole Glastonbury Festival site for a few hundred festival goers.
In 2019, around 220 million people descended on sleepy Prayagraj for the 50-day Hindu festival Kumbh Mela – called the world’s largest human gathering. Now, Hindus are 80% of India’s population of 1.07bn, so 220m means roughly 1 in 5 Hindus attended that one event.
So how many Neolithic ‘Brits’ went to Garn Goch 'festivals'?
If we accept the estimate of the UK Neolithic population as 250,000, and that 1 in 5 of them were geographically close enough to consider attending Garn Goch at summer solstice, that’s 50,000 people. Given various rivalries, travel difficulties and communication limitations, it might be that of those 50,000, 1 in 5 (how many Hindus attended Kumbh Mela) actually attended, then there would have been 10,000. 1 in 10 is still 5,000. A site the size of Garn Goch with 5,000 to 10,000 people makes sense. Equally, for 500 to 1,000 people it makes no sense.
The site had to be large enough for thousands of people to be camping, for corralling the animals they brought with them to slaughter ritually and for food, for ceremonies with spectator banks so people could see what was going on, for a sports arena, for a market for goods and services, for fires, feasting, entertainments and dancing, and others for ablutions and rubbish. There are large flat(tened) areas inside and outside the linear cairn for all of these.
Garn Goch, then, could have been a major UK-wide pilgrimage destination for at least one of its annual events. Indeed, a key to explaining the scale, longevity and significance of Neolithic Garn Goch might be that while it began as a religious centre, as a pilgrimage destination, it continued to be popular for anything but religious reasons.
Left: Inca Festival Of the Sun. Left Middle: Stonehenge Free Festival 1984. Right Middle: Pope visiting Ireland. Right: Kumbh Mela 2019. See Copyrights.