World's Oldest Calendar Found in Scotland?
The age of archaeoastronomical knowledge keeps being pushed back in many countries. Prevailing wisdom has claimed that not much culture existed in lands north of the Mediterranean this far back. Unconventional scholarship has posited otherwise for centuries. Gobekli Tepe
in Turkey is an older site supposedly. It would not surprise me if it possessed astronomical significance. Since it widely believed to be a temple, Gobekli could be deemed the oldest known astrotheological construction.
'World's oldest calendar' discovered in Scottish field
Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar "calendar" in an Aberdeenshire field.
Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months.
A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago.
The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004.
The experts who analysed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.
The Mesolithic "calendar" is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia.
The analysis has been published in the journal, Internet Archaeology.
The pit alignment also aligns on the Midwinter sunrise to provided the hunter-gatherers with an annual "astronomic correction" in order to better follow the passage of time and changing seasons.
Vince Gaffney, Professor of Landscape Archaeology at Birmingham, led the analysis project.
He said: "The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and sophistication to track time across the years, to correct for seasonal drift of the lunar year and that this occurred nearly 5,000 years before the first formal calendars known in the Near East.
"In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself."
The universities of St Andrews, Leicester and Bradford were also involved.
Dr Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews, said the discovery provided "exciting new evidence" of the early Mesolithic Scotland.
He added: "This is the earliest example of such a structure and there is no known comparable site in Britain or Europe for several thousands of years after the monument at Warren Field was constructed."
The Warren Field site was first discovered as unusual crop marks spotted from the air by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).
Dave Cowley, aerial survey projects manager at RCAHMS, said: "We have been taking photographs of the Scottish landscape for nearly 40 years, recording thousands of archaeological sites that would never have been detected from the ground.
"Warren Field stands out as something special, however. It is remarkable to think that our aerial survey may have helped to find the place where time itself was invented."
Crathes Castle and its estate is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
From 2004 to 2006, trust staff and Murray Archaeological Services excavated the site.
NTS archaeologist Dr Shannon Fraser said: "This is a remarkable monument, which is so far unique in Britain.
"Our excavations revealed a fascinating glimpse into the cultural lives of people some 10,000 years ago - and now this latest discovery further enriches our understanding of their relationship with time and the heavens."
World's Oldest Calendar Discovered in Scotland
The oldest calendar known to exist was created some 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia—but it's looking positively youthful in the face of a new find in northern Scotland. A dig at Warren Field in Aberdeenshire in 2004 is just now giving up its secrets, with archaeologists revealing that a series of 12 pits found there may in fact be the world's oldest calendar. They believe the Stone Age-era pits each acted as a stand-in for a calendar month, with the 12 collectively representing a year. Additionally, the pits may have collectively represented a single lunar month, and their varied depths in the 165-foot arc-shaped row indicate that time period was split into what the Independent calls three "weeks"—waxing, full, and waning.
The Australian calls out two notable aspects of the pits: For one, Scotland's prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes have long been considered "civilization's late starters"; the find somewhat unravels that belief. Second, their calendar took into account "lunar drift"; because lunar months don't precisely align with the passage of a year, most early calendars tracked only the former. But these pits would have been able to reveal the arrival of the midwinter solstice and, with it, the year's end, a further indication of the people's sophistication. A neat side note from the BBC: The Warren Field site was identified as one worth investigating via odd crop marks seen from above by the country's Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments.
Found after 10,000 years: the world’s first calendar
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 five thousand years older than its nearest rival – an ancient calendar from Bronze Age Mesopotamia.
Created by Stone Age Britons some 10,000 years ago, archaeologists believe that the complex of pits was designed to represent the months of the year and the lunar phases of the month. 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).
The pits were periodically re-cut – probably dozens of times, possibly hundreds of times – over those four millennia. It is therefore impossible to know whether or not they originally held timber posts or standing stones after they were first dug 10,000 years ago. However variations in the depths of the pits suggest that the arc had a complex design - with each lunar month potentially divided into three roughly ten day ‘weeks’ – representing the waxing moon, the gibbous/full moon and the waning moon.
The 50 metre long row of 12 main pits was arranged as an arc facing a v-shaped dip in the horizon out of which the sun rose on mid-winter’s day. There are 12.37 lunar cycles (lunar months) in a solar year – and the archaeologists believe that each pit represented a particular month, with the entire arc representing a year.
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.
In its role as an annual calendar (covering 12 months – one for each pit), a pattern of alternating pit depths suggests that adjacent months may have been paired in some way, potentially reflecting some sort of dualistic cosmological belief system – known in the ethnographic and historical record in many parts of the world, but not previously detected archaeologically from the Stone Age.
Keeping track of time would have been of immense economic and spiritual use to the hunter gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period. Their calendar would have helped them to pinpoint the precise time that animal herds could be expected to migrate or the most likely time that salmon might begin to run.
But Stone Age communal leaders – potentially including Shamans – may also have used the calendar to give themselves the appearance of being able to predict or control the seasons or the behaviour of the moon and the sun.
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.
The analysis has been carried out by a team of specialists led by Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Birmingham.
“The research demonstrates that Stone Age society 10,000 years ago was much more sophisticated than we had previously suspected. The site has implications for the way we understand how Mesolithic society developed in economic, social and cosmological terms, ” said Professor Gaffney.
“The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and sophistication to track time across the years, to correct for seasonal drift of the lunar year and that this occurred nearly 5000 years before the first formal calendars known in the Near East. In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself,” he said.
Stone age Scots 'first to master time'
SCOTLAND'S prehistoric huntergatherer tribes, widely seen as civilisation's late starters, may have been among the first humans to form a concept of time - including creating an annual calendar.
Archeologists have found evidence that they built a giant "year clock" capable of tracking the passing of lunar months and linking these to the changing of the seasons, so enabling them to prepare for changes in food supply.
Why suffer from Egyptoparallelophobia, when you can read Christ in Egypt
? Try it - you'll like it: