NATS 1745 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: 10Th Millennium Bc, Archaeoastronomy, Paleolithic

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12 Feb 2016
Lecture 2 (Sep 18): Ancient Astronomy 1
Moon was the most important star for the ancient people
43000- 10000 BCE: Paleolithic Era
Earliest astronomical records Paintings in caves Lascaux + Blanchard bones)
The hunter gatherers
No writing
All the myths were sky based
Proposed astronomical records in caves by Michael Rappenglueck that there are stars and moon
They also made paints that stick to the walls
Most remarkable were the scenes of the animals but they also did records of the stars and the phases of
the moon.
Bones (Blanchard bone 18000-10000) were used for counting and marking the phases of the moon
7000-1700 BCE: Neolithic Era (a little imprecise records)
The first farming society
Also beginning of bronze age
Small scale family based community
They had some domestic plants and animals
Still hunting
Shifts in mythology (change in relations with nature) ---- more earth related --- earth goddess
Buried the dead
Solar calendars came into effect
Construction of the megaliths
Strongly ritual bases (sacrifices)
3200 BCE: Newrange
Slightly colder than Stonehenge, pyramids
Burial sites
300 feet X 45 feet high; entrance 65 foot
Very narrow corridor
The entrance gets illuminated by the sun
Aligned with the rising sun during the winter solstice (sun at its highest or lowest point)
The burial chamber also gets illuminated
Today the illumination is 4 minutes delayed
The position of the sun throughout the sky changes over the centuries due to the rotational tilt of
the earth around its axis.
2 reasons: earth’s axis; the axis is not straight thus makes all the other celestial bodies change
their position over the years.
Precession affects the positions of the sun, stars in the ancient sky
Archaeoastronomers need to take into account precession when mapping sky of ancient people
3000 – 1500 BCE: Stonehenge (whole structure built over time)
1st structure – 7500 BCE – timber posts/ wooden posts (Mesolithic)
2950 BCE – they built circular ditches and banks – no one knows why, but maybe to watch eclipses
2950 BCE 56 Aubrey holes built
2600 BCE station stones --- to mark the moon (lunar calendar)
2600 BCE heel stones (single block of sarsen) – sun rise at summer solstice over the heel stone
2550 BCE bluestones from Wales
2450 BCE sarsen stones from Marlborough Downs
The sarsen and heel stones were used for alignment of the solstices
Depending on where we are standing we will see the alignment?
How was Stonehenge used?
Rituals including sacrifice
Astronomical timings
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