Astro-Archaeology & Archaeoastronomy News Archive 2015

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The Antikythera Mechanism

a 2,000-year-old astronomical computer


 Today is

Thursday, February 23, 2023 

With satellite imagery increasingly being used for archaeological investigations
The Morien Institute has decided to report discoveries in our
Astro-Archaeology 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-Archaeology news archive

Discoveries of meteorites in ancient ruins are showing that ancient peoples held these to be “sacred”, and The Morien Institute has always believed that
ancient societies built megalithic “early-warning systems” that were
designed to monitor comets and their debris streams. Therefore
new reports of their discoveries will also feature below

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 2015 will appear below
as we encounter them …

Watch the Winter Solstice sunset at Maeshowe


“Ancient Egyptians described Algol’s eclipses”

December 17 2015, Science Daily, USA

“The Ancient Egyptian papyrus Cairo 86637 calendar is the oldest preserved historical document of naked eye observations of a variable star, the eclipsing binary Algol – a manifestation of Horus, a god and a king.

This calendar contains lucky or unlucky prognoses for each day of one year. Researchers have performed a statistical analysis of the Cairo Calendar mythological texts.

Their analysis revealed that the periods of Algol (2.85 days) and the Moon (29.6 days) strongly regulate the actions of deities in this calendar.

‘Until now, there were only conjectures that many of the mythological texts of the Cairo Calendar describe astronomical phenomena.

We can now unambiguously ascertain that throughout the whole year the actions of many deities in the Cairo Calendar are connected to the regular changes of Algol and the Moon’, says Master of Science Sebastian Porceddu.”

[Read The Full Story]

[The source of this really interesting story is the University of Helsinki, and the paper published in the journal PloS ONE: “Shifting Milestones of Natural Sciences: The Ancient Egyptian Discovery of Algol’s Period Confirmed” It’s well worth reading both – Ed.]

“Ancient Greek Temple Aligned to Full Moon”

November 30 2015, Discovery News, USA

“An ancient Greek temple was built to face the setting full moon near the winter solstice, according to new research that sheds new light on the orientation of sacred monuments.

A new survey of the Valley of the Temples just outside Agrigento, Italy, reveals the 2,500-year-old temples were not deliberately aligned to the rising sun, as generally believed.

A variety of factors, not all of them being astronomical, inspired the ancient architects.

‘Alignment was widely determined by urban layout and morphological aspects of the terrain as well as religious connections’, Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan’s Polytechnic University, told Discovery News.

Known as the temple of Demeter and Persephone, the shrine is among a World Heritage-listed collection of temples that once stood in full glory in Akragas, later to be called Agrigento.

‘One can only imagine the spectacle at the temple. The full moon near the winter solstice – the longest night of the year – culminates very high in the sky and remains in the sky the longest’, Magli said.”

[Read The Full Story]

[Another really interesting new story about the excellent research conducted by the renowned archaeoastronomer, Giulio Magli. It’s available in the original paper published by Cornell University Library: “Understanding the meaning of Greek temples’ orientations. Akragas Valley of the Temples as a case study” As ever, it’s well worth reading both – Ed.]

“Event highlights the mystery of the moon

and Newark mounds”

October 11 2015, The Columbus Dispatch, USA

“The mystery of the Newark Earthworks – massive mounds built by ancient people who lived here thousands of years ago – lies in the movements of the moon.

One piece of the Earthworks is a giant octagon, large enough to fit four Roman Colosseums. Each of the octagon’s points lines up perfectly with specific times in the lunar cycle, pointing to the northernmost and southernmost places where the moon rises and sets.

‘The moon goes through an elaborate cycle, sort of like the sun, in that there’s a solstice and an equinox – it’s the rhythm of the year’, said Bradley T. Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio History Connection.

The Newark Earthworks are the largest known complex of geometric earthworks on the planet, according to archaeologists. Radiocarbon dating puts construction at around A.D. 1 to A.D. 400, Lepper said.

They cover about 4.5 square miles, and about 7 million cubic feet of earth was used to construct them.

‘And keep in mind that they were building it by hand, with pointed sticks, clamshell hoes and baskets’, Lepper said.

‘And then, carrying those baskets on their backs, one at a time, to create this amazingly precise geometry and astronomy.'”

[Read The Full Story]

[The abilities of ancient peoples to observe the movements of various celestial phenomena and accurately incorporate them into their structures shows how advanced their thinking was. The “Newark Earthworks Center” does excellent work in detecting and sharing this knowledge – Ed]

“Archimedes’ legendary sphere brought to life”

September 25 2015, Nature News, UK

“A mechanical model of the Universe attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician and polymath Archimedes has been reconstructed after more than two millennia.

The metallic globe, which reproduces the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets through the night sky, will be displayed for the first time at an exhibition in Basel, Switzerland, starting on 27 September.

The model, built by Michael Wright, a mechanician and a former curator at the Science Museum in London, is largely the product of erudite guesswork.

But astrophysicist Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University, UK, says that it demonstrates that ancients could have been capable of building such a device.

Modern scholars have generally assumed that Archimedes’ sphere — if it existed — displayed astronomical positions on a flat dial.

But Wright thinks that it was a 3D globe, and has built the model to demonstrate how it could have worked.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Building the sphere of Archimedes”

Michael Wright reconstructed a fabled machine that Archimedes invented to model the heavens

[The exhibition displaying Archimedes’s device built by Michael Wright at the Basel Museum of Ancient Art and Ludwig Collection in Switzerland, “The Sunken Treasure: The Antikythera Shipwreck”, starts on 27 September 2015 and runs until March 27 2016 – Ed]

“Polish archaeologists on Bornholm”

July 16 2015, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan

“Relics that are evidence of beliefs and rituals performed by inhabitants of the island of Bornholm before 5.5 thousand years have been discovered by the archaeologists from Warsaw during the ongoing excavations in Vasagard.

The research project is the result of several years of collaboration between the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw and Bornholms Museum.

As part of the agreement, archaeology students of IA UW come each year to the Danish island for excavations and practice their skills.

The study site – Vasagard – puzzles archaeologists to this day.

It was probably the site of a sun worship temple, surrounded by palisades.

This is evidenced by the entrance to the complex, located in the direction of the sunrise during the solstice or equinox.”

[Read The Full Story]

[The picture emerging from sites around the world suggests ancient peoples were expert skywatchers who had far more than so-called ‘ritual’ interest in the cosmos. See also “Incised stone sun discs found during Danish island excavations” – Ed]

“Star chart in Kitora Tomb likely depicts the heavens

observed in ancient China”

July 16 2015, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan

The star chart painting on the ceiling of the Kitora Tomb, Asuka, Japan

an image showing The star chart painting on the ceiling of the Kitora Tomb, Asuka, Japan, which is also a clickable link directly to The Asahi Shimbun story

Copyright © 2015, Wikimedia Commons

“A star chart found on the ceiling of an ancient tomb here was apparently based on celestial observations made centuries earlier in China, the Agency for Cultural Affairs said July 15.

The star chart in the stone chamber of the Kitora Tomb, a government-designated special historic site in Asuka village, was discovered in 1998.

The tomb was believed to have been constructed between the late seventh century to early eighth century, and is renowned for its richly colored murals.

The star chart features 68 constellations depicted with gold discs.

Three concentric circles, along with one representing the apparent path of the sun, portray the movement of celestial objects with the Polar Star at the center.”

[Read The Full Story]

[An excellent article with some great images, and well worth a visit to read the full story – Ed]

“Nabta Playa and the Ancient Astronomers

of the Nubian Desert”

April 26 2015, Ancient Origins, Australia

Nabta Playa megalithic calendar in Aswan Nubia museum

an image showing Nabta Playa megalithic calendar in Aswan Nubia museum, which is also a clickable link directly to the Ancient Origins story

Rawmbetz, Wikimedia Commons

“Nabta Playa is a remarkable site composed of hundreds of prehistoric tumuli, stelae, and megalithic structures located in the Nubian Desert, approximately 100 kilometers west of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt.

They are the result of an advanced urban community that arose approximately 11,000 years ago, and left behind a huge assembly of stones, which have been labelled by scientists as the oldest known astronomical alignments of megaliths in the world.

Some archaeologists believe that the people of Nabta Playa were the precursor civilization for the first Nile cities that arose in Egypt thousands of years later.

The ancient remains of Nabta Playa were first discovered in 1974 by a group of scientists led by Fred Wendorf, an Anthropology Professor from the Southern Methodist University in Texas, when they noticed potsherds and other artifacts sticking out of the desert sand.

Wendorf made several more visits to the site during the 1970s and 1980s, each time discovering something new.

But it was to be several decades before researchers discovered the dozens of stone structures that are known today, and began to realize the role and importance of these great megaliths.”

[Read The Full Story]

[This is an excellent, well-resourced, story about one of the most enigmatic ancient astronomically-oriented megalithic sties in the world to be discovered so far, and well worth a visit to read the full story – Ed]

“Stonehenge’s tallest stone ‘points at winter sunrise'”

April 22 2015, BBC News, UK

“The tallest stone at Stonehenge points towards the sunrise on the midwinter solstice, according to a new theory from a steward at the site.

Historians have long known the circle of stones is aligned with the midsummer sunrise but Tim Daw says the tallest one is lined up with the midwinter sun.

It was previously thought the stone had been put back at the wrong angle when it was re-erected in 1901.

But Mr Daw, who works there, says his research shows its angle is deliberate.

‘The stones point to the midwinter solstice sunrise and midsummer sunset’, he said

‘This isn’t some nebulous sighting line on a distant star; this is 100 tonnes of stone deliberately pointing to the major event at the other end of the day the rest of the monument celebrates’.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Aboriginal legends an untapped record of

natural history written in the stars”

March 03 2015, PhysOrg, USA

“Aboriginal legends could offer a vast untapped record of natural history, including meteorite strikes, stretching back thousands of years, according to new UNSW research.

Dr Duane Hamacher from the UNSW Indigenous Astronomy Group has uncovered evidence linking Aboriginal stories about meteor events with impact craters dating back some 4,700 years.

Dr Hamacher, an astrophysicist studying Indigenous astronomy, examined meteorite accounts from Aboriginal communities across Australia to determine if they were linked to known meteoritic events.

His study, published in the latest edition of peer-reviewed journal Archaeoastronomy, found ‘definitive links’ between known meteorite craters and local Aboriginal traditions.

One of the meteorite strikes, at a place called Henbury in the Northern Territory, occurred around 4,700 years ago.

Dr Hamacher said the level of detail contained in the local oral traditions suggested the Henbury event had been witnessed and its legend passed down through generations over thousands of years – a remarkable record.”

[Read The Full Story]

[Here’s another excellent example of oral traditions recording the accurate observations of ancient skywatchers. You can get more information from the original abstract HERE but we also recommend the book “Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy” – Ed]

“The Taulas of Menorca

Mysterious Megaliths of the Talaiotic People”

February 22 2015, Ancient Origins, Australia

“Located in the Mediterranean Sea are a set of Spanish islands known as the Balearic Islands. One of those islands, Menorca, is home to an impressive collection of megalithic stone monuments called the taulas.

The origin and purpose of the taulas is unknown, although they are the works of prehistoric humans.

There have been several theories surrounding the mystery of the taulas, generally focused on religious or astronomical purposes. Some believe they are a religious symbol.

Others believe the taulas served as a temple of healing.

Finally, there is a theory that the taulas were aligned with the movements of the moon.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Taj Mahal Gardens Found to Align with the Solstice Sun”

February 02 2015, Live Science, USA

“If you arrived at the Taj Mahal in India before the sun rises on the day of the summer solstice (which usually occurs June 21), and walked up to the north-central portion of the garden where two pathways intersect with the waterway, and if you could step into that waterway and turn your gaze toward a pavilion to the northeast – you would see the sun rise directly over it.

If you could stay in that spot, in the waterway, for the entire day, the sun would appear to move behind you and then set in alignment with another pavilion, to the northwest.

The mausoleum and minarets of the Taj Mahal are located between those two pavilions, and the rising and setting sun would appear to frame them.

Although standing in the waterway is impractical (and not allowed), the dawn and dusk would be sights to behold, and these alignments are just two among several that a physics researcher recently discovered between the solstice sun and the waterways, pavilions and pathways in the gardens of the Taj Mahal.

The summer solstice has more hours of daylight than any other day of the year, and is when the sun appears at its highest point in the sky.

The winter solstice (which usually occurs Dec. 21) is the shortest day of the year, and is when the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky.

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physics professor at the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy, reported the alignments in an article published recently in the journal Philica.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Astronomical alignment of geoglyph in Republic of Macedonia may point to Royal connection”

January 18 2015, Ancient Origins, Australia

“A multidisciplinary study of a geoglyph located atop a hill in Kanda in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), has unravelled a series of incredible features of the ancient structure, including the artificial construction of the hill an astronomical alignment with the constellation of Cassiopeia, which may point to a connection with Macedonian royalty.

The research was carried out by the SB Research Group (SBRG), an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers (from Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Finland and United Kingdom) that combines astronomy, philosophy, mythology, mathematics and physics in the study of ancient sites and temples in Europe.

The SBRG combined multiple methods, including infra-/ultrasound research, AMT measurements, binary algorithm synthesis from audio waves, data sonification, and dowsing, to study the ancient geoglyph and hill, which is located in the vicinity of the town of Sveti Nikole in Kanda.

The hill is an egg-shaped mound, perfectly oriented North-South, measuring approximately 85 meters (280ft) by 45 meters (148ft).

On top of the hill is a geoglyph of a giant symbol sitting within an oval ditch.

‘The whole structure, with its shape and symbolism, resembles a cosmic egg – the source of primordial creation’, reports the research team in a paper titled “Archaeoacoustic analysis of the ancient site of Kanda (Macedonia)”.

Intriguingly, the constellation of Cassiopeia lies directly to the north and stands vertically above the geoglyph in the skies zenith at sunrise on 21/22 July (the birth date of Alexander the Great).”

[Read The Full Story]

“Newgrange: Celebrating the New Year Pagan-Style”

January 08 2015, Palatinate, England

“The Winter Solstice, which takes place on 21st December in the Northern Hemisphere, is celebrated in various forms all over the world.

In astronomical terms, this is the shortest day of the year, when the sun is at its lowest in the sky.

After the solstice, the days begin to get longer again, and it is for this reason that it was celebrated as the beginning of a new year by pagan cultures.

This monument is an astounding feat of engineering: dating from around 3,200 B.C. (that’s older than the Pyramids!) it is aligned exactly with the rising of the midwinter sun.

Above the entrance to the tomb there is an opening called the roof-box.

On 21st December, the light of the rising sun passes through the roof-box and travels up the narrow passage, illuminating the inner chamber.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Scientist tackles mystery of ancient astronomical device”

January 06 2015, PhysOrg, USA

“The shoebox-size chunk of bronze didn’t attract much attention when divers retrieved it from an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901.

Archaeologists on the expedition had their hands full with far more impressive finds, including life-size statues of warriors and horses, delicate glass bowls and scores of ceramic vessels called amphorae.

Decades would pass before scientists realized that the nondescript bronze – now called the Antikythera Mechanism – was the biggest treasure of all.

The device consisted of a series of intricate, interlocking gears designed to predict eclipses and calculate the positions of the sun, moon and planets as they swept across the of the sky.

The machine exhibited a level of technological sophistication no one dreamed was possible when it was built, at least 2,000 years ago.

Europe produced nothing to equal it until the geared clocks of the Medieval period, more than a thousand years later.

Some scholars describe the Antikythera Mechanism as the world’s first analog computer.”

[Read The Full Story]

“Let in the Light

Ancient Roman Fort Designed for Celestial Show”

January 05 2015, Live Science, USA

“The gateways of an ancient Roman fort in Britain are roughly aligned with the light from the sun during the summer and winter solstices – a design that would have resulted in a striking scene on the shortest and longest days of the year, a researcher says.

The fort had four gateways facing one another.

During the summer solstice, the sun would rise in alignment with the fort’s northeastern and southwestern gates, and set in alignment with its northwestern and southeastern gates, the researcher reported in the new study.

During the winter solstice, the sun would rise in line with the fort’s southeastern and northwestern gates, and set in line with the fort’s southwestern and northeastern gates.

‘Moreover, the four towers of the garrison seem aligned to cardinal directions’, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a physics professor at the Politecnico di Torino (Polytechnic University of Turin) in Italy, wrote in the study, published Dec. 17 in the journal Philica.”

[Read The Full Story]

[Excellent graphics. Well worth a visit to the Live Science website, but I recommend that you also take a look at the original paper in the journal Philica which has many more images and diagrams along with a full list of references – Ed]

“The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project”

Cardiff/Athens Universites (Cymru/Greece)

[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 Antikythera Mechanism Information & Commentary:

“Discovery about the Antikythera Mechanism reveals surprising advances in early Greek science”

University of Puget Sound (USA)

“World’s oldest computer is more ancient than first thought… “

The Daily Mail Online (UK)

“New international mission ready to explore Antikythera shipwreck”

eKathimerini (Greece)

“Return to Antikythera: Divers revisit wreck where ancient computer found”

The Guardian Science Blog (UK)

“In search of lost time”

Nature (UK)

“World’s First Computer Displayed Olympic Calendar”

Wired Gadget Lab (USA)

“Antikythera Mechanism – World’s earliest existing analogue computer”

HotnHit News (India)

“In search of lost time”

Nature (UK)

“Imaging the Antikythera Computer”

Wired Gadget Lab (USA)

“Decoding an Ancient Computer: Greek Technology Tracked the Heavens”

Scientific American (USA)

“2,000 Year Old Computer Yields Her Secrets”

Wired Gadget Lab (USA)

“Watch a video explaining the Antikythera mechanism”

Nature (UK)

“Antikythera mechanism”

Wikipedia (USA)

“World’s First Computer Rebuilt, Rebooted After 2,000 Years”

Wired Gadget Lab (USA)

“Antikythera: A 2,000-year-old Greek computer comes back to life”

The Guardian Science Blog (UK)

Google image search results for The Antikythera mechanism

Google (USA)


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