Mesolithic star gazers

25 September 2014

We have had cave artists from the Palaeolithic era (during the Ice Age) obsessed with the Pleiades and the Hyades. Now we have evidence of early Holocene interest in the sky – go to… … a site in Pomerania dating back 9000 years or so, in effect a series of huts that have been preserved intact with their contents, is being excavated. One of the huts is thought to have belonged to a shaman as so called ritual objects were found there – including a meteorite.. After further probes in and around the pine and aspen pole shelters (or huts) some seven yew stakes stuck in the ground were found and they appear to follow a recognisable patter, that of the constellation of Ursa Major.

This star group figures large in religio-myth for reasons not well understood. In ancient Egypt it was associated with a sky bull – or more precisely, the leg of a bull. The Hyades, of course, contain the bull's eye of the constellation of Taurus (the bull). In the Bible Samson wielded the jawbone of an ass (another name for the Hyades) in a tale that involved meteorites (torches tied to foxes tails). Samson also heaved and pushed and the pillars of a temple collapsed (an earthquake).

Last year, the university of Birmingham reported a discovery in Scotland of a Mesolithic pit alignment that was interpreted as evidence of time reckoning. The pits appeared to mimic the phases of the Moon and seemed to track lunar months. The same fascination with the Moon and the calendar was widespread across Europe in the pre-Roman world. Callanish in the Hebrides was aligned to track the Moon – and Alexander Thom claimed many another stone circle had the same ability.

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