Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy
New Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy Discoveries made in 2017 will appear below as we encounter them ...
January 19 2017, National Geographic News, USA"While excavating an ancient Roman villa buried in volcanic ash, 18th-century workers found an unusual lump of metal small enough to fit in a coffee mug.
Cleaning it revealed something both historically important and hilarious: one of the world's oldest known examples of a portable sundial, which was made in the shape of an Italian ham.
Recently re-created through 3-D printing, a high-fidelity model of the sundial is helping researchers address questions about how it was used and the information it conveyed.
The model confirms, for instance, that using the whimsical timepiece required a certain amount of finesse, says Wesleyan University's Christopher Parslow, a professor of classical studies and Roman archaeology who made the 3-D reconstruction.
All the same, 'it does represent a knowledge of how the sun works, and it can be used to tell time.'
The vertical lines are marked for the months of the year. The horizontal lines indicate the number of hours past sunrise or before sunset." [Read The Full Story]
[A great story! It seems that ancident people's could invent devices to tell the time of day, as well as devices and structures that record the solstices, equinoxes and lunar ectremes positions relative to Earth. Well done NatGeo - Ed]
January 05 2017, Seeker, USA"Italian archaeologists have found an intriguing Stonehenge-like 'calendar rock' in Sicily.
Featuring a 3.2-foot diameter hole, the rock formation marked the beginning of winter some 5,000 years ago.
Using a compass, cameras and a video camera mounted to a GPS-equipped drone, La Spina and colleagues carried out a test in December at the winter solstice.
The idea was to find out if the rising sun at solstice aligned with the distinct hole in the rock feature.
According to La Spina, the experiment was "a total success."
'At 7:32 am the sun shone brightly through the hole with an incredible precision', La Spina said. 'It was amazing.'" [Read The Full Story]
[Some more interesting info about the Winer Solsice discovery in Sicily. Well worth a visit to read the full story and see the amazing image of the Winter Solstice sun shining right through the hole in the stone - Ed]
January 05 2017, The Local, Italy"A group of friends stumbled across an unusual arrangement of stones in Sicily, which experts have now confirmed form a prehistoric sundial dating back to the Bronze Age.
Their report was read by Professor Alberto Scuderi, a regional director of Italy's Archaeologist Groups, who suggested the discovery get scientific confirmation.
The professor, who specializes in archeoastronomy, has been studying the find for three months, completing the work on Tuesday, January 3rd. Scuderi was due to present the full results of his analysis on Thursday at Gela's Archaeological Museum.
But a professional verification carried out on December 21st - the winter solstice - confirmed that the sundial would have been used to determine the season and solstices." [Read The Full Story]
[Really great story from The Local in Italy! The Solstices were likely the most important of seasonal markers for both hunter-gatherers as well as early farmers, and this story underlines the importance of people who find ancient remains reporting them to the appropriate authoritites so they can be investigated and protected - Ed]
Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy Discoveries that were
October 24 2016, Bangalore Mirror, India"In a very significant discovery, historians and archaeologists have claimed to have discovered 'undoubtedly the earliest astronomical observatory from India or even south Asia' dating back to 5000 BC.
The site in Mudumal village in Telangana's backward Mahbubnagar district is being described as the only megalithic site from India, where a depiction of star constellation has been identified.
A team of archaeologists from Korea, involving professors from a university, will be visiting the site in December to ascertain the veracity of the discovery, according to officials of Telangana Archaeology Department.
A cup-mark depiction of Ursa Major was noticed on a vertically planted squarish stone with a slanting face.
An imaginary line drawn through the top two stars - Merak and Dubhe - point to pole star or the North Star.
The two cup-marks representing Merak and Dubhe are aligned almost exactly on north-south axis.
Just on the eastern periphery of this concentration, there is a stone circle arranged with menhirs alternating with three or four circle stones." [Read The Full Story]
[We have included this story from the Bangalore Mirror as it has extra information not seen in The Times of India story about this discovery - Ed]
October 24 2016, The Times of India, India"In a significant discovery, historians and archeologists have found what they describe as the only megalithic site in India, where a depiction of star constellation has been identified.
The site was discovered in Mudumal village in Telangana and is estimated to date back to 5000 BC.
No other site in India has so many menhirs concentrated at one place, claim the historians and archeologists who also believe that this is 'undoubtedly the earliest astronomical observatory found in India or even south Asia'.
A cup-mark depiction of Ursa Major was noticed on a squarish stone planted vertically.
About 30 cup-marks were arranged in a pattern similar to the appearance of Ursa Major in the sky.
Not only the prominent seven stars, but also the peripheral groups of stars are depicted on the menhirs
Mudumal contains about 80 big menhirs as tall as 12 to 14 feet, and about 2000 alignment stones of about 1-2 feet high." [Read The Full Story]
[An excellent discovery in south India. Now that archaeologists are considering the siting of ancient sites and their possible relationship with phenomena visible in the skies, astro-archaeology is progressing at an incredible pace. Their new understanding that ancient megalith builders on every continent were not just avid skywatchers but more than capable of recording various astronomical phenomena perhaps the old Euro-centric misinterpretation of prehistory will die its well-deserved death - Ed]
October 12 2016, ABC News, Australia"Scientists studying the Wurdi Yuang stone arrangement say it could date back more than 11,000 years and provide clues into the origins of agriculture.
Dr Duane Hamacher is a leader in the study of Indigenous astronomy and has been working with Aboriginal elders at the site to reconstruct their knowledge of the stars and planets.
'Some academics have referred to this stone arrangement here as Australia's version of Stonehenge', he said.
'I think the question we might have to ask is: is Stonehenge Britain's version of Wurdi Yuang? Because this could be much, much older.'
If the site is more than 7,000-years old, it will rewrite history and further disprove the notion that first Australians were uniformly nomadic, hunter-gatherers.
Scientists believe the arrangement of stones was able to map out the movements of the sun throughout the year." [Read The Full Story]
[Another really good story from ABC News that shows how previous notions of Australian aboriginals was jus so wrong. The Euro-centric misinterpretations of prehistory which have dominated the past few hundred years were simply racist, and it's about time credit is given where it is due for the much greater understanding of the cosmos that ancient peoples undoubtedly had but which has been played down by past racist academics - Ed]
August 18 2016, Space Daily, USA"For more than 120 years the Venus Table of the Dresden Codex - an ancient Mayan book containing astronomical data - has been of great interest to scholars around the world.
The accuracy of its observations, especially the calculation of a kind of 'leap year' in the Mayan Calendar, was deemed an impressive curiosity used primarily for astrology.
But UC Santa Barbara's Gerardo Aldana, a professor of anthropology and of Chicana and Chicano studies, believes the Venus Table has been misunderstood and vastly under-appreciated.
In a new journal article, Aldana makes the case that the Venus Table represents a remarkable innovation in mathematics and astronomy - and a distinctly Mayan accomplishment.
'That's why I'm calling it discovering discovery', he explained, 'because it's not just their discovery, it's all the blinders that we have, that we've constructed and put in place that prevent us from seeing that this was their own actual scientific discovery made by Mayan people at a Mayan city.'" [Read The Full Story]
[A great story from Space Daily. The ancient Mayan people were competent astronomers and avid skywatchers who recoded their observations in monuments that academic scientist are starting to really appreciate. And about time too - Ed]
August 17 2016, University of Adelaide, Australia"University of Adelaide research has for the first time statistically proven that the earliest standing stone monuments of Britain, the great circles, were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon, 5000 years ago.
The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, details the use of innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the patterns of alignment of the standing stones.
'Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind - it was all supposition', says project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.
Examining the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland (Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney - both predating Stonehenge's standing stones by about 500 years), the researchers found a great concentration of alignments towards the Sun and Moon at different times of their cycles." [Read The Full Story]
[Look at this arrogant statement: 'Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind.' Oh Really!!!
August 02 2016, Digital Journal, USA"Hopewell earthworks and mounds are some of the most intriguing and mysterious geometric formations created in the ancient world.
'Hopewell' refers to a Native American mound-building era that developed from the earlier Adena culture, with both names derived from excavated mound sites on historic plantations.
Adena and Hopewell spanned the approximate time frame of 1500 BC to AD 900 and were gradually replaced by another mound culture called 'Mississippian'.
Archaeological research the past few years has shown that many ancient Native American mound/earthwork sites were constructed in a way that facilitated a death ritual that would lead deceased souls to the stars.
This 'Path of Souls' ritual took place on the Winter Solstice and involved Orion's Nebula and the Cygnus Constellation.
The key alignments for the death ritual on the Winter Solstice were the sunset, the setting point of Cygnus (specifically the star Deneb), and the rising and setting points of Orion's Nebula.
On the night of the Winter Solstice a series of star alignments were viewed.
These alignments were typically made from the top of a prominent mound directly across another important mound or an important earthwork point such as an opening or corner of the formation.
On the distant horizon and directly above the aligned mound, observers would see the setting and rising of the stars involved." [Read The Full Story]
[An incredible article from Digital Journal published as a press release from AP Magazine. The achievements of Native American astronomners and shaman skywatchers never fails to impress us, and this analysis by Dr. Greg Little is typical of what is increasingly being discovered in ancient sites all over the Americas.
June 30 2016, The Guardian,UK"Researchers think that the entrance passages to 6,000 year-old tombs could have been used to enhance visibility for ancient stargazers.
Ancient passages to stone tombs could have been used by prehistoric humans to boost their view of the night skies as part of an ancient ritual, archaeologists have proposed.
Researchers say that the dark entrances to 6,000 year-old tombs in Portugal could have been an early form of astronomical tool that enhanced the visibility of the stars.
In particular, they say, the orientation of the entrances to the passage graves suggests that they are aligned to offer a view of Aldebaran, the red star that is the brightest body in the constellation of Taurus.
The star might have been important to ancient communities who moved their herds and flocks to summer grazing grounds in the mountains each year." [Read The Full Story]
[A great story from The Guardian. But the speculation that observations of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the Taurus constellation, 'might' have been used ritually, and marked the times to move flocks to higher ground, is just specualtion. No-one knows when the fragmenting comet (known as proto-Encke) first became visible, but all astronomers and astrophysicists agree that when the fragments began bombarding the Earth they appeared to come from Taurus. It is more likely that observations oriented to Taurus would have been to monitor the fragmenting comet and the resultant meteor showers/storms. Well worth a visit to read the full story - Ed]
June 10 2016, CBC News, Canada"When you're trying to fathom a mangled relic of very old hi-tech, it helps to have the manufacturer's instructions.
For over a century since its discovery in an ancient shipwreck, the exact function of the Antikythera Mechanism - named after the southern Greek island off which it was found - was a tantalizing puzzle.
From a few words deciphered on the twisted, corroded fragments of bronze gears and plates, experts guessed it was an astronomical instrument. But much more remained hidden out of sight.
After more than a decade's efforts using cutting-edge scanning equipment, an international team of scientists has now read about 3,500 characters of explanatory text - a quarter of the original - in the innards of the 2,100-year-old remains.
They say it was a kind of philosopher's guide to the galaxy, and perhaps the world's oldest mechanical computer." [Read The Full Story]
[What an excellent story from CBC! The ongoing research is showing just how sophisticated the makers of the 'Antikythera Mechanism' were, and the images are also superb. Whether or not it was the ancient Greeks who made it remains uncertain, as there were other older cultures whose remains indicate a much more advanced astronomy than that possessed by the Greeks at the time scientists believe it was 'probably' made. It's well worth a visit to read the full story - Ed]
June 04 2016, Daily Times, Pakistan"New research shows that an iron dagger buried with King Tutankhamun was made from a meteorite.
It even suggests the Egyptians knew what they were working with.
Archaeologists and historians have been fascinated by King Tut's mummified remains and the mysterious objects found in his tomb since their discovery in the 1920s.
In the past, scientists have claimed that an iron dagger, found along with a gold blade in King Tut's tomb, may have come from meteorites.
Other ancient Egyptian iron artefacts have also been suspected to be meteoritic, since smelted iron was rarely used." [Read The Full Story]
[This is really great research. Meteoritic iron seems to have been universally 'worshipped' in many ancient cultures, and regarded as some form of "heaven's mandate" for the governance of societies by the incumbent ruler. Well worth a visit to read the full story - Ed]
June 02 2016, Fox News Latino, Mexico"Researchers in Mexico have discovered that an ancient Mayan observatory isn't only aligned to the sun, it's also designed to track the movement of the planet Venus across the sky, confirming that the ancient Central American civilization had extensive knowledge of astronomy and the solar system.
First unearthed at Acanceh in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula in 2002, the observatory is thought to have been used in the Mayan's early Classic period, between 300 and 600 AD, a millennia or more before the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas.
'We believe this building used to be a multifunctional facility that was used exclusively by the Mayan elite, specifically for priests-astronomers', Beatriz Quintal Suaste, a researcher at the Yucatán National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), told the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior.
Doors in the structure align with the rising and setting of the sun during the spring and fall equinoxes, and the semicircular building is set up so that it casts no shadow in the midday sun.
That Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, was important to the priests-astronomers of Acanceh shows in how the southern edge of the observatory, which aligns with the planet's northernmost position in the night sky."
[Read The Full Story]
[This is an excellent story from Fox News Latino. The ancient Maya were very accomplished astronomers, and this new research shows that, as with ancient skywatchers in Britain and elsewhere, the movements of Venus were carefully tracked in Central America also. Well worth a visit to read the full story - Ed]
May 10 2016, The Independent, UK"A 15-year-old boy believes he has discovered a forgotten Mayan city using satellite photos and Mayan astronomy.
William Gadoury, from Quebec, came up with the theory that the Maya civilization chose the location of its towns and cities according to its star constellations.
He found Mayan cities lined up exactly with stars in the civilization's major constellations.
Studying the star map further, he discovered one city was missing from a constellation of three stars.
Using satellite images provided by the Canadian Space Agency and then mapped on to Google Earth, he discovered the city where the third star of the constellation suggested it would be." [Read The Full Story]
[What a great piece of research! Building structures sited so as to mirror the constellations is something that seems to have been a common practice throughout the ancient world, and this is an excelent example of this practice. Amazing satellite images. Well done William! - Ed]
April 05 2016, Archaeology Magazine, USA"In early 2017, hundreds of media outlets around the world reported that a set of recently deciphered ancient clay tablets revealed that Babylonian astronomers were more sophisticated than previously believed.
The wedge-shaped writing on the tablets, known as cuneiform, demonstrated that these ancient stargazers used geometric calculations to predict the motion of Jupiter.
Scholars had assumed it wasn't until almost A.D. 1400 that these techniques were first employed-by English and French mathematicians.
But here was proof that nearly 2,000 years earlier, ancient people were every bit as advanced as Renaissance-era scholars.
Judging by the story's enthusiastic reception on social media, this discovery captured the public imagination.
It implicitly challenged the perception that cuneiform tablets were used merely for basic accounting, such as tallying grain, rather than for complex astronomical calculations." [Read The Full Story]
[To reiterate the points made before - the abilities of ancient peoples to observe the movements of various celestial bodies, and accurately record their observations and calculate their movements, seem to have been more accurate the further back in time they are traced. A seriously radical rethink of ancient people's scientific abilities is long overdue - Ed]
January 28 2016, Science Magazine, USA"Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies.
Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus.
Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.
Astroarchaeologist Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin bases his findings on a re-examination of clay tablets, one of them unknown until recently, dating from 350 B.C.E. to 50 B.C.E.
One week each year for the past 14 years, Ossendrijver has made a pilgrimage to the British Museum's vast collection of tablets inscribed in the Babylonian cuneiform script.
Between 2002 and 2008, Ossendrijver, an astrophysicist turned historian, studied two other tablets that also prescribed the drawing of a trapezoid, and in these he thought he could make out a reference to Jupiter." [Read The Full Story]
[The abilities of ancient peoples to observe the movements of various celestial bodies, and accurately record their observations and calculate their movements, seem to have been more accurate the further back in time they are traced. This very important discovery demonstrates their mathematical genius, and we can only hope that more tablets such as these are still safely left to be discovered given the recent destruction by Daesh radicals - Ed]
January 25 2016, Stone Pages/RILKO Magazine, Italy/UK"Following nearly 40 years of research, Norman Stockdale and Peter Harris conclude that a standard unit of length was used in the construction of megalithic monuments, but not the same unit proposed long ago by Professor Thom.
Thom had been Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Oxford, and an expert in astro-navigation and surveying, and drew plans for hundreds of ancient monuments prior to publishing his book, 'Megalithic Sites in Britain', in 1967.
[Also available from Amazon UK - Ed.]
Middle to late-Neolithic stone circles date from about 3,400 to 2,700 BCE, and mainly found in the northern half of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Late Neolithic to early Bronze Age circles, from 2,700 BCE to about 2,000 BCE, are scattered throughout the United Kingdom, with concentrations in Cornwall and Brittany.
The most prolific period for stone circle building was in the middle Bronze Age, from 2,000 BCE to 1,200 BCE, and chiefly concentrated in Scotland.
Few circles were erected after that, and none are known from later than 1,000 BCE.
Despite this separation in time, the complex geometries of some of the flattened circles, egg-shaped rings and ellipses built throughout the entire period were identical and occur in all regions.
Alignments to the key stations of the moon through its 18.6-year cycle are commonly met alongside those to the solar and equinoctial sunrises and sunsets.
Harris says that while we cannot think of all the structures solely as 'observatories', the measures incorporate key astronomical data into monument design."
[Read The Full Story]
[A great story showing how ancient peoples could not only observe the movements of various celestial bodies, accurately record their observations and calculate their movements, but also incorporated that knowledge into the architechture of megalithic monuments. You can get the book by Norman Stockdale & Peter Harris "Astronomy & Measurement in Megalithic Architecture" if you want to read more about this very important astro-archaeological research - Ed]
"The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project"
interesting books from our
"Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy"
"End of Eden: The Comet That Changed Civilization"
"The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World"
"Megalithic Sites in Britain"
"Astronomy & Measurement in Megalithic Architecture"
"The Power of Stars:
"Machu Picchu's Sacred Sisters: Choquequirao and Llactapata:
"The 2300 BC Event - Vol. 1:
"The 2300 BC Event takes a new look at an old puzzle: what happened
"The 2300 BC Event Vol. 2:
"Some time around 2300 BC the Eath encountered a dense clustering of space debris, the early Southern & Northern Taurid meteoroid stream. The result was an intense fall of meteoroids, some of them sufficiently large to cause surface destruction.
"The 2300 BC Event Vol. 3:
"The Northern/Southern Taurid meteoroid stream is identified as the specific meteoroid stream that the Earth encountered at 2300 BC.
Research in the field of neo-catastrophism and impact cratering has quickened its pace since the early 1980s. Scholars such as Victor Clube, Bill Napier, Mark Bailey, Sir Fred Hoyle and Duncan Steel claim that a more 'active' sky might have caused major cultural changes of Bronze Age civilizations, belief systems and religious rituals."
"The ancient Britons were inspired by a profound knowledge of the heavens when they erected the monumental stones of Avebury.
"After rumors surfaced about the sun bisecting a petroglyph at Chaco Canyon, people never looked at the site the same again.
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