Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy
With satellite imagery increasingly being used for archaeological investigations
Likewise, many ancient legends that have previously been dismissed as
Alongside these will be material about archaic astrological beliefs which were inextricably inter-linked with ancient astronomical science
New Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy Discoveries made in 2012 will appear below as we become aware of them
October 18 2012, AFP, France
"Stone carvings in Morocco's High Atlas mountains dating back more than 8,000 years and depicting the sun as a pagan divinity have been destroyed by Salafists, a local rights group said on Wednesday.
October 15 2012, Live Science, USA
"The Egyptian city of Alexandria, home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, may have been built to align with the rising sun on the day of Alexander the Great's birth, a new study finds.
October 06 2012, Art Daily, USA
"After almost two years' restoration and integral conservation work, the Great Ball Game of Chichen Itza, the biggest in Mesoamerica, gradually recovered its original form with the reestablishment of a small staircase in the rear part of the ball court and the five passages the Mayan had built over the principal structures, these were also used to observe the path of the sun during the equinoxes and the solstices.
May 10 2012, Nature, UK
"Under an earthen mound deep in the Guatemalan rainforest, archaeologists have discovered what they say is the earliest evidence to date of the sophisticated astronomy and time-keeping rituals of the ancient Maya.
May 10 2012, New Scientist, UK
"Archaeologists have discovered a 9th-century Mayan house with astronomical tables inscribed on the walls.
May 10 2012, BBC News, UK
"Archaeologists working at the Xultun ruins of the Maya civilisation have reported striking finds, including the oldest-known Mayan astronomical tables.
May 03 2012, Sci-News, UK
"Chinese scientists have proposed that an object collected 35 years ago from a tomb of the Western Han Dynasty in Fuyang city and called 'lacquerware of unknown names' could be a gnomon with template.
May 01 2012, Deccan Herald, India
"Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, the Saffron coloured Jantar Mantar rests in the heart of the Capital since 18th century but only a handful of people know of it as an astronomical observatory.
April 19 2012, Discovery News, USA
"Ancient Scandinavians dragged 59 boulders to a seaside cliff near what is now the Swedish fishing village of Kåseberga.
March 29 2012, LiveScience, USA
"Manmade mounds shaped like orcas, condors and even a duck may be the oldest evidence of animal mounds outside of North America, according to former University of Missouri anthropologist.
March 27 2012, KSEE 24 News, USA
"An ancient stone monolith in England was likely an astronomical marker, according to new archaeological evidence.
February 12 2012, Tigrai Online, Ethiopia
"A British excavation has struck archaeological gold with a discovery that may solve the mystery of where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.
February 09 2012, Discovery News, USA
"With a weight that rivals a baby elephant, a meteorite that fell from space some 30,000 years ago is likely Britain's largest space rock.
New exhibition displays the largest
January 16 2012, LiveScience, USA
"A research team has discovered what may be the oldest astrologer's board, engraved with zodiac signs and used to determine a person's horoscope.
Some Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy
December 18 2011, The Columbus Dispatch, USA
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
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."
October 18 2011, Irish Independent, Ireland
Newgrange in Co Meath may have a second passage, and it too could be aligned with a solstice event.
Teams from Ireland and Slovakia are exploring the possibility -- using technology that has proven successful at the pyramids in Egypt." [Full Story]
October 11 2011, Heritage Portal, Germany
his discovery was made by researchers at the Römisch-GermanischesPress Zentralmuseum at Mainz in Germany when they evaluated old excavation plans.
The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly with the sky constellations of the Northern hemisphere.
Whereas Stonehenge was orientated towards the sun, the more then 100 meter width burial mound of Magdalenenberg was focused towards the moon." [Full Story]
October 01 2011, Ilkley Gazette, England
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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."
February 05, 2011, 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
The statue bore Greek inscriptions stating that the statue is an offering to Orion from an ancient warrior named Tamanaius.
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
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."
January 04, 2011, Deccan Herald, India
While the sundial on the Jamia Masjid’s terrace is in a circular shape, the one near the Gumbaz (Hyder Ali’s tomb) is in the shape of a square.
There are eight straight lines on every clock. There are engravings in the Persian language, too.
The sundial also has 19 circles, apart from a hollow space at the centre, which has a needle-like protrusion made of an alloy which can expand and contract according to the temperature." [Full Story]
"The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project"
useful books from our
"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!"
"East Asian Archaeoastronomy: Astronomical Observations of China, Japan and Korea"
"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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