Tuesday, July 16, 2013


A stone age solar and lunar calendar has been discovered in a dozen pits in northern Scotland ... meaning that humans had a sophisticated calendrical system thousands of years earlier than previously thought, according to new research.

The discovery is based on a  detailed analysis of data from an archaeological site in northern Scotland – a row of ancient pits which archaeologists believe is the world's oldest calendar. It is almost 5,000 years older than its nearest rival – an ancient calendar from Bronze Age Mesopotamia.

Created by Stone Age Britons some 10,000 years ago, the complex of pits was designed to represent the months of the year and the lunar phases of the month, archaeologists believe. They believe it also allowed the observation of the mid-winter sunrise – in effect the birth of the new year – so that the lunar calendar could be annually re-calibrated to bring it back into line with the solar year.

Remarkably the monument was in use for some 4,000 years – from around 8,000BC (the early Mesolithic period)  to around 4,000BC (the early Neolithic).

Besides being a solar calendar, the 12 pits may also have played a second role by representing the lunar month. Mirroring the phases of the moon, the waxing and the waning of which takes 29 and half days, the succession of pits, arranged in a shallow arc  (perhaps symbolizing the movement of the moon across the sky), starts small and shallow at one end, grows  in diameter and depth towards the middle of the arc and then wanes in size at the other end.

The site – at Warren Field, Crathes, Aberdeenshire –  was excavated in 2004 by the National Trust for  Scotland, but the data was only analysed in detail over the past six months using the specially written software which permitted an interactive exploration of the relationship between the 12 pits, the local topography and the movements of the moon and the sun.

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