Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy
New Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy Discoveries made in 2018 will appear below as we encounter them ...
March 20 2018, Heritage Daily, UK"Ever since humans could look up to see the sky, we have been amazed by its beauty and untold mysteries. Naturally then, astronomy is often described as the oldest of the sciences, inspiring people for thousands of years.
Celestial phenomena are featured in prehistoric cave paintings.
And monuments such as the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge seem to be aligned with precision to cardinal points or the positions where the moon, sun or stars rise and set on the horizon.
Today, we seem to struggle to imagine how ancient people could build and orient such structures. This has led to many assumptions.
Some suggest prehistoric people must have had some knowledge of mathematics and sciences to do this, whereas others go so far as to speculate that alien visitors showed them how to do it.
But what do we actually know about how people of the past understood the sky and developed a cosmology?" [Read The Full Story]
[A really fascinating article from Heritage Daily! One of the main focal points of The Morien Institute research has been the obvious fascination ancient peoples worldwide had with events observed in the skies, and this article is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of research about ancient astronomy as reflected in all aspects of the monuments they left behind.
February 19 2018, Live Science, USA"Though it's slightly lopsided, the towering Great Pyramid of Giza is an ancient feat of engineering, and now an archaeologist has figured out how the Egyptians may have aligned the monument almost perfectly along the cardinal points, north-south-east-west - they may have used the fall equinox.
The fall equinox occurs halfway between the summer and winter solstices, when Earth's tilt is such that the length of the day and night are almost the same.
About 4,500 years ago, Egyptian pharaoh Khufu had the Great Pyramid of Giza constructed; it is the largest of the three pyramids - now standing about 455 feet (138 meters) tall - on the Giza Plateau and was considered a 'wonder of the world' by ancient writers.
Turns out, the pyramid builders somehow designed this ancient wonder with extreme precision.
'The builders of the Great Pyramid of Khufu aligned the great monument to the cardinal points with an accuracy of better than four minutes of arc, or one-fifteenth of one degree', Glen Dash, an engineer who studies the Giza pyramids, wrote in a paper published recently in The Journal of Ancient Egyptian Architecture." [Read The Full Story]
[An interesting story, but the use of sticks and stone gnonoms to determine solar positions has been known about for some time. They also used distance hills and mountain peaks to determine the exact times and days of the equinoxes and solstices as viewed from appropriate backsites. It's worth a visit to read the full story and see the diagram - Ed]
January 10 2018, The Guardian, UK"For decades, stone carvings unearthed in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir were thought to depict a hunting scene.
But the presence of two celestial objects in the drawings has piqued the interest of a group of Indian astronomers.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of History of Science, the Kashmir rock drawings may be the oldest depiction of a supernova, the final explosion of a dying star, ever discovered.
Archaeologists found the carvings nearly half a century ago in Kashmir's Burzahama site, where the oldest settlements have been dated to about 4,300BC.
It showed two hunters, a bull, and two beaming disks in the sky initially speculated to be two suns.
That explanation did not satisfy Mayank Vahia and a team of astrophysicists in India and Germany.
They settled on Supernova HB9, a star that exploded around 4,600BC.
Viewed from Kashmir, the supernova would have occurred somewhere near the Orion constellation, 'Which is known as the scene of a hunter', said Vahia
'The supernova also went off just above the constellation of Taurus, the bull, which is also seen in the drawing', Vahia added." [Read The Full Story]
[What an amazing story from The Guardian! Well Done! The many ways and symbols used by ancient peoples to depict events they observed in the skies continue to again surprise us.
January 04 2018, IB Times, UK"A team of archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a stone shrine in a pond that depicts the design of the universe, as imagined by ancient Aztec civilisations.
The stone "tetzacualco" or sanctuary was found at Nahualac, a site at the foothills of the Iztaccihuatl volcano.
According to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), along with the stone shrine, ceramic fragments, lithic materials, lapidaries and organic remains were found nearby, which have been associated with the Aztec rain god Tlaloc.
The researchers have surmised that the placement of the stones is meant to portray a miniature model of the mythical universe.
The placement itself creates the effect of making it seem like the stones are 'floating' on the water's surface rather than lying on the pond bed."
[Read The Full Story]
[A great story from IB Times! The ingenuity of ancient peoples when portraying the cosmos never ceases to amaze as new discoveries uncover very, very different ways of perceiving the universe that do modern peoples. It's well worth a visit to read the full story and see the images - Ed]
January 03 2018, Netral News, Indonesia"An 1,800-year-old temple in northern England that is dedicated to the god Mithras was built to align with the rising sun on Dec. 25, a physics professor has found.
The temple is located beside a Roman fort in Carrawburgh, near Hadrian's Wall, which served as the most northerly frontier to the Roman Empire, beginning around AD 122.
Some modern-day scholars believe that the Romans celebrated Mithras' birthday on Dec. 25 - the same day eventually chosen by Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Using satellite imagery and astronomical software that shows the direction of the sunrises and sunsets, 'we can easily see that the building is in good alignment along the sunrise on December 25', wrote Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physics professor at the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, in a paper published online recently in the journal Philica. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
There is also an alignment between the Mithras temple and the rising sun on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, Sparavigna said.
Roger Beck, an emeritus professor of Classics at the University of Toronto, who has written extensively on the cult of Mithras, said that he hypothesized that such an alignment existed in a paper published in 1984 in the journal Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen.
In that 1984 paper, he speculated that the rays of the sun might have illuminated a statue and altar within the Mithras temple on the winter solstice.
In his 1984 paper, Beck did not propose that the reason for such an alignment was to celebrate the birthday of the god Mithras on Dec. 25, and he's skeptical that the Romans celebrated the god's birth on that day." [Read The Full Story]
[A great story from Netral News to open the new year with, and all the more so because of the Decmber 21 Winter Solstice confusion with December 25th - the supposed birth of Jesus. The solsticial sunrise itself was not what they were observing ritually but scientifically.
Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy Discoveries that were
November 27 2017, Times of Malta, Malta"A German academic believes he has solved one of Malta's enduring archaeological enigmas and intends to sail the Mediterranean on a replica Bronze Age vessel to prove it.
The Tal-Qadi Stone, discovered at the temple complex of the same name in Salina and exhibited at the National Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, is a book-sized limestone slab, divided into five segments and incised with figures of stars and what has usually been thought of as a crescent moon.
Most archaeologists believe the stone, probably a fragment of a larger whole, was a star map or moon calendar but its exact purpose remains a mystery.
Kai Helge Wirth, a geographer and art scientist who has been researching the stone for some four years, believes he has cracked the mystery.
The stone, he says, was an ancient navigational tool, a map not only of the stars but of water currents in the Mediterranean.
Illuminated from the right angle, he suggests, the moon figure on the stone reveals itself to be not a moon at all but a boat: a 'proto-Phoenician bird-bark'.
The stars are the constellations Scorpio, Virgo and Leo.
They correspond directly to the early Phoenician shipping routes."
[Read The Full Story]
[Amazing story from the Times of Malta! That one ancient stone could carry information about various star patterns as well as ocean current tells us that ancient mariners were far more sophisticated than previously thought by mainstream archaeologists, though many are now considering the widespead ancient knowledge of astronomy with greater respect that they have done for more than 100 years.
October 24 2017, BBC News, UK"An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.
Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.
It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.
The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer which sank during a storm in the Indian Ocean in 1503.
The boat was called the Esmeralda and was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India."
[Read The Full Story]
[An excellent story from BBC News! Astrolabes were efficiently accurate enough to allow mariners to navigate the seas, and this is another important discovery. Well worth a visit to the BBC site to see the images of the astrolabe and a video of the marine archaeologists at work - Ed]
August 10 2017, Newsweek, USA"It turns out that nearly 1,000 years ago our ancestors were just as keen to share news about a solar eclipse, but in the absence of smartphones or computers they used more primitive means to depict the stunning solar event: rock art.
Researchers believe they have discovered a rock carving in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon that represents a total eclipse that occurred more than 900 years ago.
The engraving, known as a petroglyph, shows a circle with curved, intricate swirling emissions issuing from it.
Around the circle, believed to depict the sun, human figures can be seen in different positions and engaged in different activities.
University of Colorado Boulder Professor J. McKim Malville has said the circle shown in the rock art represents the sun's outer atmosphere, known as its corona, with the tangled, looped protrusions on its edges dating it to a total eclipse that occurred in the region on July 11, 1097." [Read The Full Story]
[Well done Newsweek for highlighting this discovery! Eclipses were very important to ancient peoples all over the world, as they gave a glimpse of the corona and any major activity such as Cornonal Mass Ejections (CMEs) that may have been happening at the time of the eclipse. This story is well worth reading in full to understand the thinking behind the discoverers' conclusions regarding exactly what this petroglyph represents - Ed]
July 07 2017, The Telegraph, UK"Ancient stone monuments may have been used for mysterious night-time ceremonies, archaeologists believe, after finding that some rock carvings only appear in moonlight.
Traditionally Neolithic structures were believed to align with the movements of the Sun, with the huge Wiltshire circle of Stonehenge lining up perfectly with the summer solstice.
But a new investigation of the Stone Age engraved panel Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall by Dr Andy Jones, found nearly 10 times the number of markings when viewed in moonlight or very low sunlight from the south east.
They also discovered that pieces of quartz had been deliberately smashed up around the site which would have glowed in the dark under moonlight, or firelight, creating a gentle luminescence.
Dr Jones, of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit said: 'I think the new marks show that this site was used at night and it is likely that other megalithic sites were as well.'"
[Read The Full Story]
[WOW! What a revelation! That ancient megalithic sites were also used at night to view and study the moon's movements, and that very precise surveying, complex mathematics and astronomical knowledge was incorporated with precision into many megalithic sites, has been known for more than 50 years with the excellent scientific studies of megalithic stone structures done by Oxford Uni Prof. Alexander Thom, revealed in his classic book, "Megalithic Lunar Observatories".
May 15 2017, Nature News, UK"Blackened and irregular, the prehistoric beads found in a centuries-old Illinois grave don't look like anything special.
But the latest analysis1 shows that they were fashioned from an exotic material: the shards of a meteorite that fell to Earth more than 700 kilometres from where the beads were found.
The link between the Anoka meteorite, which landed in central Minnesota, and the Illinois beads confirms that '2,000 years ago, goods and ideas were moved hundreds of miles across eastern North America', says Timothy McCoy, co-author of the analysis and curator-in-charge of meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC
The beads were made by people of the Hopewell culture, which flourished in the US Midwest from 100 BC to 400 AD - spreading from its epicentre in Ohio to as far as Mississippi.
The culture is known for sprawling ceremonial earthworks and for objects made of non-local materials such as mica." [Read The Full Story]
[Again we see that meteorites were held to be 'sacred' stones in yet another ancient culture. Most of these cultures have common themes throughout their religious and scientific beliefs, specifically a belief in Mother Earth and Father Sky. There are local differences but the common themes will go back much further to the times when meteorite bombardments from the sky destroyed their origin culture. This story is well worth reading in full - Ed]
April 09 2017, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, USA"Seen from the air, the structure is a D-shape, perched on the lip of a mesa that overlooks the famous "Cliff Palace" dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park.
Scientists call it the Sun Temple.
But what is it? An 800-year-old observatory? A ceremonial structure? A mix of both?
The only people who would know are the ancestral Puebloans -- also known as the Anasazi -- who built structures across the Southwest and then started abandoning them in the 13th century.
In a recent paper, an Arizona State University mathematician examined aerial imagery and concluded that the Sun Temple contains sophisticated geometric patterns, including Pythagorean triangles and other shapes used by other ancient civilizations.
The mathematician, Sherry Towers, also concluded that the Sun Temple's builders had used a common unit of measurement -- roughly 30 centimetres -- in designing the site." [Read The Full Story]
[Another interesting story about ancient peoples use of sophisticated maths and geometry combined with astronomy! It only goes to show that when inter-disciplinary investigations review the archaeological records they find ancient peoples to have been far more sophisticated than previously thought by archaeologists and prehistorians - Ed]
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]
"The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project"
interesting books from our
"Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy"
"The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World"
"Megalithic Sites in Britain"
"Megalithic Lunar Observatories"
"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.
please take a look at our Ancient Mysteries Bookshoppe for a wide selection of books
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