With satellite imagery increasingly being used for archaeological investigations The Morien Institute has decided to report discoveries in our Astro-Archæology news archive
Likewise, many ancient legends that have previously been dismissed as purely “mythological” are now proving to be based on fact, and so The Morien Institute has decided to also report these new discoveries in our Astro-Archæology news archive
Alongside these will be material about archaic astrological beliefs which were inextricably inter-linked with ancient astronomical science
December 18 2011, The Columbus Dispatch, USA
“Many of Ohio’s ancient earthworks are aligned to astronomical events, such as the apparent rising and setting of the sun or the moon on key dates in their cycles.
The main axis of the Octagon Earthworks at Newark, for example, lines up to where the moon rises at its northernmost point on the eastern horizon.
Clearly, ancient Americans were paying close attention to the sky, but why?
This question is considered in a paper by Canadian archaeologists Brian Hayden and Suzanne Villeneuve published in the current issue of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.
One of the most commonly proposed answers is that farmers need to know when to plant and harvest their crops, and the solar calendar determines the growing season.
But ancient farmers, more attuned to nature’s rhythms than most modern folk, didn’t need gigantic astronomical observatories for that.
Moreover, the 18.6-year-long cycle of the moon, encoded in Newark’s monumental earthworks, wouldn’t be of any help at all in determining the best times to sow and reap.” [Full Story]
November 26 2011, The Independent, UK
“Extraordinary new discoveries are shedding new light on why Britain’s most famous ancient site, Stonehenge, was built – and when.
Current research is now suggesting that Stonehenge may already have been an important sacred site at least 500 years before the first Stone circle was erected – and that the sanctity of its location may have determined the layout of key aspects of the surrounding sacred landscape.
The crucial new archaeological evidence was discovered during on-going survey work around Stonehenge in which archaeologists have been ‘x-raying’ the ground, using ground-penetrating radar and other geophysical investigative techniques.
As the archaeological team from Birmingham and Vienna were using these high-tech systems to map the interior of a major prehistoric enclosure (the so-called ‘Cursus’) near Stonehenge, they discovered two great pits, one towards the enclosure’s eastern end, the other nearer its western end.
When they modelled the relationship between these newly-discovered Cursus pits and Stonehenge on their computer system, they realised that, viewed from the so-called ‘Heel Stone’ at Stonehenge, the pits were aligned with sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year – the summer solstice (midsummer’s day).
The chances of those two alignments being purely coincidental are extremely low.” [Full Story]
October 01 2011, Ilkley Gazette, England
“An amateur scientist believes he has finally found proof that ancient rock carvings on Rombalds Moor are ‘Stone Age star maps’.
Gordon Holmes believes he has uncovered five of the finest examples of primitive maps of the night sky – all carved into stones on the moor.
Mr Holmes, of Shipley, has been fascinated by the carved cup and ring stones on Rombalds Moor for decades, and is confident that he may have discovered the meaning of mysterious symbols dating back thousands of years.
Mr Holmes, who sparked archaeological investigations in 2005 after coming across a possibly unrecognised ancient stone circle, previously documented stone carvings appearing to show the Pole Star, Cassiopeia, Hyades and Pleiades.” [Full Story]
September 24 2011, Stone Pages Archaeo News, Italy
“A standing stone at the popular tourist site Gardom’s Edge in the Derbyshire Peak District (England) may in fact be a 4,000 year old seasonal sundial, experts suggest.
Academics in astronomy and landscape history from Nottingham Trent University will soon present the findings from a study of the site at the European Society for Astronomy in Culture conference in Portugal.
The project involved surveying and analysing the orientation of the single standing stone, which is linked to a nearby stone age monument, including its deterioration through erosion.
The experts have been able to make their prediction based on the stone’s orientation, the dip of its slope and the altitude of the sun at midsummer.” [Full Story]
August 01 2011, The Daily Telegraph, UK
“It is one of the best preserved buildings from the Roman world, a 2,000-year-old testament to the immense power and wealth of the empire.
But mystery has always surrounded what lies behind the unusual design of the Pantheon, a giant temple in the heart of Rome that was built by the Emperor Hadrian.
Now experts have come up with an intriguing theory – that the temple acted as a colossal sun dial, with a beam of light illuminating its enormous entrance at the precise moment that the emperor entered the building.
Constructed on Hadrian’s orders and completed in AD128, the Pantheon’s hemispherical dome is punctured by a 30ft-wide circular hole known as the ‘oculus’.
Giulio Magli, a historian of ancient architecture from Milan Polytechnic, Italy, and Robert Hannah, a classics scholar from the University of Otago in New Zealand, have discovered that at precisely midday during the March equinox, a circular shaft of light shines through the oculus and illuminates the Pantheon’s imposing entrance.”
June 16 2011, Nature News, UK
“Hadrian’s villa 30 kilometres east of Rome was a place where the Roman Emperor could relax in marble baths and forget about the burdens of power.
But he could never completely lose track of time, says Marina De Franceschini, an Italian archaeologist who believes that some of the villa’s buildings are aligned so as to produce sunlight effects for the seasons.
For centuries, scholars have thought that the more than 30 buildings at Hadrian’s palatial country estate were oriented more or less randomly. But De Franceschini says that during the summer solstice, blades of light pierce two of the villa’s buildings.
In one, the Roccabruna, light from the summer solstice enters through a wedge-shaped slot above the door and illuminates a niche on the opposite side of the interior.
And in a temple of the Accademia building, De Franceschini has found that sunlight passes through a series of doors during both the winter and summer solstices.”
June 15 2011, ABC Science News, Australia
“Australian Aboriginal accounts of lunar and solar eclipses indicate many traditional communities understood the movement of the Sun, Earth and Moon.
The research by Duane Hamacher from Sydney’s Macquarie University and accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage and appearing on the website arXiv.org, indicates Aboriginal communities in different parts of Australia often have similar traditional stories to explain these events.
According to Hamacher, Aboriginal Australians were careful observers of the night sky, possessing a complex understanding of the motions of astronomical bodies and their correlation with terrestrial events.
This included the passage of time, the movement of tides, changing seasons, and the emergence of particular food sources.” [Full Story]
April 2011 Edition, American Journal of Archaeology, USA
“For the first time, the role of the night sky in the performance of nocturnal festivals in ancient Greece is considered.
This study presents a reconstruction of the Athenian night sky as it would have been visible from the Acropolis during the celebration of the Panathenaia.
A link is suggested between the timing of the festival, held on the Acropolis, and the movement of the constellation of Draco, which would have been visible in the night sky during this time.” [Full Story]
April 01, 2011, Wired Science, USA
“The world’s oldest astronomical calculator is famous for having intricate gear systems centuries ahead of their time. But new work shows the Antikythera mechanism used pure geometry, as well as flashy gears to track celestial bodies’ motion through the heavens.
The device, a 2,000-year-old assemblage of gears and wheels that matched 19th century clocks in precision and complexity, was salvaged from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901.
The original bits and pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism
salvaged from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901
, Wired Science, USA
Called the Antikythera mechanism, the machine gracefully kept track of the day of the year, the positions of the sun and the moon, and perhaps the other planets. It also predicted eclipses and kept track of upcoming Olympic games.
Most of the mechanism’s calculations were driven by a series of 37 interlocking dials, which may have been manipulated by a hand crank.
The front of the mechanism had a clock-like face that denoted the calendar date in two concentric circles, one showing the signs of the Greek zodiac, and one carrying the Egyptian months of the year.” [Full Story]
[For more information about the Antikythera Mechanism see the Nature video and other links we have compiled and listed at the very bottom of this page – JM ]
February 05, 2011, ABC Radio Science Show, Australia
“A stone arrangement known as Wurdi Youang in Victoria between Melbourne and Geelong raises questions about what Aborigines observed and knew about the night sky. The arrangement of stones with respect to the sun’s position at the solstices suggests to some researchers that Aborigines has an advanced and very early knowledge of the movement of objects in the sky.
It’s a question that fascinates astronomers and historians alike. When did we humans start to track the movements of the planets and the stars in the night sky?
It is now being realised that Australia’s Aboriginal people had a great knowledge of astronomy, which was virtually overlooked when white settlers took over 200 yrs ago.
There are lots of stone arrangements but this is special, it’s a large standing stone arrangement, very similar to the ones you would see in Scotland, Ireland and England. It’s egg-shaped, it’s about 50 metres in diameter with three large standing stones at one apex that mirror three mountains in the background.
And at the apex of the other end, if you stand there and look down, the centre of it, which is exactly east-west, you can see the equinox sitting over these three stones. And if you look down the other side you see two rows that align to the solstices.”
[Full Transcript & Audio Story]
February 05, 2011, News.com / The Daily Telegraph, Australia
“Is this just a pile of rocks placed in a semicircle, or proof that Aborigines were the world’s first astronomers?
Early astronomers? … an aerial view of the Wurdi Youang stone arrangement also known as the Mount Rothwell site
, News.com / The Daily Telegraph, Australia
After years of meticulous examination, a group of Australia’s most distinguished astro-physicists is starting to believe it’s the latter – a discovery that could turn history upside down and render England’s famous Stonehenge an also-ran.
Dubbed Wurdi Youang, the strange stone arrangement was found on property near Mt Rothwell, 80km west of Melbourne – its two points set in perfect alignment with the setting sun on a midsummer’s day.” [Full Story]
February 01, 2011, Global Arab Network, Syria
“During the sixties of the 20th century, a statue of a bull dedicated to the Greek god Orion was discovered in Younan Mountain near the town of Bloudan in Damascus Countryside.
The statue bore Greek inscriptions stating that the statue is an offering to Orion from an ancient warrior named Tamanaius.
The statue of a bull dedicated to the Greek god Orion discovered in Younan Mountain near the town of Bloudan in the Damascus Countryside
, Global Arab Network, Syria
Orion is a mythical figure whose origin various according to the several stories. One story tells that the gods Zeus, Hermes and Poseidon come to visit a man named Hyrieus who roasts a whole bull for them, and when they offer him a favor, he asks for the birth of sons, and thus Orion is born.
Other stories say that he is the son of the sea god Poseidon, and that he had incredible strength and beauty and excelled at hunting wild beasts, hence his title of “Hunter.”” [Full Story]
January 31, 2011, Nature, UK
“A Viking legend tells of a glowing ‘sunstone’ that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day.
It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic.
The Vikings, seafarers from Scandinavia who travelled widely and settled in swathes of Northern Europe, the British Isles and the northern Atlantic from around 750 to 1050 AD, were skilled navigators, able to cross thousands of kilometres of open sea between Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
Perpetual daylight during the summer sailing season in the far north would have prevented them from using the stars as a guide to their positions, and the magnetic compass had yet to be introduced in Europe — in any case, it would have been of limited use so close to the North Pole.
But Viking legends, including an Icelandic saga centring on the hero Sigurd, hint that these sailors had another navigational aid at their disposal: a sólarsteinn, or sunstone.”
[In October 1900, Captain Dimitrious Kondos was leading a team of sponge divers near the the island of Antikythera off the coast of Greece. They noticed a shipwreck about 180 feet below the surface and began to investigate. Amongst the artifacts that they brought up was a coral-encrusted piece of metal that later archaeologists found was some sort of gear wheel.
The rest of the artifacts, along with the shape of the boat, suggested a date around 2000 years ago, which made the find one of the most anomalous that had ever been recovered from the Greek seas. It became known as The Antikythera Mechanism.
In 2006 the journal “Nature” published a letter, and another paper about the mechanism was published in 2008, detailing the findings of Prof. Mike G. Edmunds of Cardiff University. Using high-resolution X-ray tomography to study the fragments of the anomalous Antikythera Mechanism, they found that it was in fact a bronze mechanical analog computer that could be used to calculate the astronomical positions and various cycles of the Moon – as seen from the Earth: – Ed]
More news stories and websites about The Antikythera mechanism
“Stonehenge today is a battlefield, not only for police and festivalgoers at midsummer but also for rival camps of archaeologists, astronomers, and other researchers into the mysteries of prehistoric religion and science. Controversy flared up in 1963, when Gerald Hawkins made early use of the computer to identify Stonehenge as an observatory for the sun and moon and an instrument for predicting eclipses. Further studies of megalithic sites by Alexander Thom proved that many of them were also related to the seasonal positions of the heavenly bodies.
The study of astro-archaeology has now expanded worldwide, bringing new revelations about the mystical sciences of antiquity. This “little history” summarizes the issues involved in astro-archaeology, and illustrates its principal sites and personalities. Included are recent findings of British scientists, whose records of anomalous levels of natural energies at stone circles are in accordance with the magical reputations of such places in local folklore.”
“This complete, authoritative study of the growing discipline of Archaeoastronomy examines the role of astronomy in antiquity. Professor Giulio Magli provides a clear, up-to-date survey of current thinking on the motives of the ancients for building fabulous and mysterious monuments all over our planet. Was it an attempt to reproduce the sky on Earth, to bring down the power of the stars to where they could see it, worship it and use it?
The connecting thread is astronomy: Giulio Magli uses astronomy as a key to understanding our ancestors’ way of thinking. It is a challenge he likes to call ‘predicting the past’ – archaeology as a science is able to make predictions, like any other science, and to check them.
All of the astronomical achievements of the past are considered as a whole, in a comprehensive way that shows the depth and breadth of the thought behind them. In the past, the motives of the ancients – and particularly their scientific thought – have often been misconstrued, maligned or even dismissed.
In an ironic, provocative style, Professor Magli shows the limitations of orthodox archaeology in the face of astronomically-based artefacts and tries to understand what led the ancients to construct magnificent buildings such as the city of Teotihuacan in the Mexico Valley, the Ceremonial Centre of Chaco Canyon in the USA, the Avebury stone circle in Great Britain or the Great Pyramids in Egypt.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first, the reader is taken on an ideal ‘world tour’ of many wonderful and enigmatic places in almost every continent, in search of traces of astronomical knowledge and lore of the sky. In the second part, Giulio Magli uses the elements presented in the tour to show that the fundamental idea which led to the construction of the astronomically-related giant monuments was the foundation of power, a foundation which was exploited by ‘replicating’ the sky.
A possible interpretive model then emerges that is founded on the relationship the ancients had with “nature”, in the sense of everything that surrounded them, the cosmos. The numerous monumental astronomically aligned structures of the past then become interpretable as acts of will, expressions of power on the part of those who held it; the will to replicate the heavenly plane here on earth and to build sacred landscapes.”
“The discovery of a 5000-year-old Sun Temple and an ancient “time machine” – Stone Age calendar – in Canada led scientist Gordon Freeman to ground-breaking discoveries in Stonehenge. During fieldwork and research from 1986 to 2006, Freeman found striking similarities between the surface geometry of the two sites.
These similarities push back the boundaries of written history and have far-reaching implications for North American and European history.
Passion and science blend in this remarkable, readable book, as Freeman takes us along on his patient and exciting discovery of a 5000-year-old Temple in the plains of Alberta. What he finds at the Majorville Medicine Wheel in turn informs his convincing account of Stonehenge archaeoastronomy”
“In all of the world’s myths and religions we find traditions of a Great Flood. There are stories too of a Golden Age: the antediluvian paradise that it destroyed. Might these be real memories of the ancient world? And how can we analyse the subject scientifically? The key to unlock these ancient myths lies in astronomy. “Under Ancient Skies” will examine the astronomical evidence for an ancient cataclysm and in the process will explore a number of related anomalies in prehistory, including: Was there a single great flood in human prehistory, or have there been many?
Could the workings of ancient calendars and the records of ancient eclipses give us clues about the Flood and the antediluvian world? Did the Celtic Druids use a calendar based on the orbit of Saturn; and is this the same antediluvian calendar as is described in Plato’s myth of Atlantis? Do Hindu, Chinese and Mayan cosmology myths recall the years after the Flood when our world wobbled on its axis?
Geologists have recently found the crater in Yucatan, where an asteroid impact destroyed the world of the dinosaurs. Scientists and astronomers have stopped dismissing the theory that a comet could have struck the Earth during prehistory – but any suggestion that a comet impact just a few thousand years ago might have caused the Biblical Flood, remains the last taboo. It is time for this barrier too to be washed away. If you read this book and you understand it then be warned – it may scare you!”
“Historical astronomical records can play an important role in modern research, especially in the case of ancient Chinese observational data: sunspot and aurora records are important for the study of solar variability; solar and lunar eclipse records for the study of the Earth’s rotation; records of Comet Hally for the study of orbital evolution; “guest star” records for the study of supernova remnants; planetary conjunction records for research in astronomical chronology.
In the past, Western scientists have not been able to exploit these valuable data fully because the original records were difficult to gather and interpret, and complete English translations have not been available. East-Asian Archaeoastronomy is the first comprehensive translation into English of such historical records for modern research.
The book also features an introduction to East Asian astronomy and offers guidance on how to use the records effectively. It will not only be a valuable research tool for astronomers but should also be of great interest to historians of China and Chinese science. Xu; Zhenoao Purple Mountin Observatory,Pankenier; W Department of Modern Foreign Language and Literatur,Yaotiao; Jiang Nanjing University , China.”
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