The Winter Solstice


Today is my wedding anniversary, remembering it took prompting by my wife this morning. I must say that I am normally good at remembering, but this year DUH!

It should be easy to remember because it is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. We specifically chose that date because of the solstice1. I always say that from that date the days become brighter.

But what has this to do with project management?

Our ancestors five thousand years ago engaged in massive civil engineering projects related to astronomical events.

Why? We have no idea what religious significance these sites had for their builders.

However, they must have been especially important, because some of the stones, weighing many tonnes, were transported long distances. Also, sites involved large scale excavations. All this with no mechanical equipment or metal tools.

Something to remember is the fact that these sites were also the first project management tools.

To manage the rhythm of their lives it was essential to have a point of reference to plan the projects for the year.

A BBC article to mark the day focused on one specific site, that of Maeshowe chambered cairn on the Scottish Orkney islands.

The article includes a short video of the setting of the mid-winter sun, within the chamber of the cairn.

Of course, it was not just in northern Scotland that our ancestors sought to understand the seasons. The BBC article references three other sites.

  • Newgrange Cairn, Ireland
  • Bryn Celli Dhu. Wales
  • Machu Picchu, Peru


As demonstrated by the Maeshowe site and many others around the world, humans have been superb project managers for millennia.

Top Lesson for Project Managers

These sites although apparently primitive are incredible feats of engineering. They demonstrate what can be done without complex tools or software.

What aspects are important:

  • The purpose – The Why.
  • A willingness to innovate.
  • A spirit of collaboration.


1The winter is the point where the earth’s pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun resulting in the shortest day of the year.            


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mark Norman

    Nice, Jim. Leave it to you to reach back 5000 years to make a point relevant to today. Bravo.

    1. Jim Benvie

      Thanks, Mark.
      Appreciate you interest.
      Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

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