Was Stonehenge an observatory?

  • Thread starter ryokan
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  • #26
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selfAdjoint said:
But I can't see the same payoff for people living inland in Germany or Switzerland.

Perhaps, merely to play, although it was also suggested that the observation of Pleiads (Nebra's disc) could be important to signal sowing time.
 
  • #27
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Nebra Disc

Here is the official web site of Nebra disc.
:shy: Sorry,it is a good page, but it is wroten in german.
http://www.archlsa.de/sterne/
 
  • #28
Nereid
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Scientific American article on Nebra, http://www.eso.org/gen-fac/meetings/ekstasy2003/scheibe.html [Broken], BBC on Nebra ... all in English (one even in 'American')!
 
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  • #29
selfAdjoint
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ryokan said:
Perhaps, merely to play, although it was also suggested that the observation of Pleiads (Nebra's disc) could be important to signal sowing time.

The pleides, being "fixed stars" are a much easier forecasting problem. The Moon is hard because it is strongly attracted by both the Sun and the Earth, and depending where it is and which way it's going in respect to each of them, the next change in its orbit will be different from the previous one.

Even Newton was unable to do the Moon completely with his gravity theory, because he refused to give up his insight about central forces, and the lunar motion is not a pure central force problem. If we regard the Earth as the center of its orbit, then the Sun's attraction has a tangential component. Or vice versa. It was an improved lunar theory the Royal Navy was looking for, in aid of "lunar distances" longitude methods, when it set that 18th century competition that Harrison won on a technicality with his totally irrelevant clock.
 
  • #30
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I would suggest that the Basque Peoples from in what are today the Pyrenees of Southern France and Northern Spain pre-dated the Beaker Folk in what is present day Britain and eventualy integrated with them. I would suggest the following link for further information on this subject -

http://www.angelfire.com/nt/dragon9/BASQUES.html [Broken]

- The following is an excerpt from that site.

Basques in Britain

When a group of Basques settled in Britain between 9,000 and 5,000 BC, they took with them the worship of Bel, his Holy Day of May 1, and the building of stone circles. Later, the Beaker People arrived and mixed with the Basques, bringing their innovations, such as working silver and gold. When the Greek geographer Pytheas sailed around Britain in 325 BC, he called them the Pretanic Isles because the inhabitants called themselves the Priteni. This evolved into Prytani (Prytaini, Prydaini), and later became Britanni. In 297 AD the Roman, Emmenius, referred to the people of northern Britain as the 'Picti.' Most researchers believe this to refer to the Latin word 'pictus,' meaning 'painted.' Some, however, believe it may be a latinized version of Priteni, after the Norse 'Pettr,' old English 'Peohta,' and old Scots 'Pecht.'
The Prytani built many stone structures, including stone circles, standing stones, dolmens and stone chambers in earthworks. The inner chambers of these structures were used for ritualistic purposes, and the Prytani buried their dead in a fetal position so they would be ready for rebirth. At Belteine, the rebirth of summer was celebrated with bonfires atop many hills, where cattle were driven through the flames to ensure their fertility for the coming year (and the people also jumped through the flames). The Prytani also worshipped the Old Serpent, who was thought to travel across the countryside on straight paths at certain times of the year. The old straight tracks (called ley lines today) that criss-cross Britain between standing stones have been dated to between 4000 BC and 2000 BC.
 
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  • #31
turbo
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Great Link!!

Thank you for that great link! I have only just skimmed it and will go back and read it in detail after supper. I don't know how much of the information on that site is supportable, but it is full of interesting ideas.
 
  • #32
jcsd
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maps: is thought that the basques may be the remnats of a pre-Indo-European culture that may of once covered a large part of Europe, but even this is on the speculative side. Basques in Britain tho' is a little far-fetched.
 
  • #33
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jcsd said:
maps: is thought that the basques may be the remnats of a pre-Indo-European culture that may of once covered a large part of Europe, but even this is on the speculative side. Basques in Britain tho' is a little far-fetched.
I think the first 'may' is pretty strong; Basque, the language, is one of only five in the world that appear to have no relationship to any other reasonably well defined language (extinct ones included) - and the only such in Europe. Further, Cavalli-Sforza et al found that the Basques (a population group) are an outlier in the European population group (which itself fissioned from the 'non-African' group some ~40kya). That there were pre-Indo-European cultures that covered a large part of Europe is not at all 'may' (the proto-Indo-Europeans dispaced the original inhabitants); the Basque connection however is a may.
 
  • #34
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stonehenge is not so much an observatory but a calender to determine the start of the planting season, the celebration of the harvest, and the opening of the tides that led to wherever they needed to go along wit many other dates...

the druids needed exact dates of the year to maintain their elitist position and keep their society united under one religion.

I believe it was also used by ancient navigators to synchronise with other calenders around the world.

BTW I am polynesian living in NZ and we had archaeoastronomy and wayfinding by the stars down pat while many of the northern tribes were too scared to sail beyond the horizon for fear of falling off the edge of the earth
 
  • #35
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RingoKid said:
stonehenge is not so much an observatory but a calender to determine the start of the planting season,

In Archaeoastronomy, what is the difference between an observatory and a calender?
 
  • #36
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ryokan

one maps out the stars to the land and defines tribal borders, the other regulates the seasons for important events throughout the year
 
  • #37
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RingoKid said:
ryokan

one maps out the stars to the land and defines tribal borders, the other regulates the seasons for important events throughout the year

I believe that one of the purposes of the old observatories was the study of seasonal changes. So, it would be interchangeable the term "observatory" by "calendar". Later, observations would distance from pure calendar purposes.
 
  • #38
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more than calenders to mark time and regulate seasons these observatories often served another function

Polynesians have traditions of defining tribal boundaries that required placing marker stones or burial sites that signified the land of the people of that area. These markers stones were laid out to resemble constellations with the knowledge of them being recorded in song/chant of legendary deeds by ancestors and gods.

To know the exact point from which to view the laid out constellation required sighting certain astronomical events usually from a sacred place at a certain time of the year. The knowledge of this was hidden within the chants and songs and known only to "preists" and intitiates...thus tying or singing the stars to the land

apply that to stonehenge and i would assume marker stones radiating perhaps great distance from stonehenge and pointing to other sites. I would also assume them to be laid out to resemble constellations of note.

On a side note...

navigating the old tides and wayfinding for Pasifikan navigators worked on the same principal, zeniths of stars coinciding with constellations rising pinpointing land masses of neighbouring and distant islands and signalling a favourable change in the currents as well. Knowledge now lost in forgotten chants that basically tied/sung the stars to the sea

http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/pvs/navigate/latitude.html [Broken]
 
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  • #39
Evo
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Some interesting discussions. Bumping & moving to History.
 
  • #40
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I honor of the new location may I post on the related topic of Babylonian astronomy. One of the astronomical questions of great interest to early peoples was to predict the future positions of the Moon. This is a difficult problem because the Moon is affected by both the Earth's and the Sun's gravitation to non trivial degrees. Calculation of lunar positions from his gravitation theory dfeated Newton, and modern accuracy was only obtained by the introduction of infinite dimensional matrices and determinants.

But the Babylonians by recording and correlating the place of rising of the new Moon with respect to the place of rising of the Sun that day, for 700 years,were able to construct a purely algebraic formula for the Moon's position of remarkable accuracy. Indeed their complicated arithmetic transformations have been compared to modern Fourier analysis and statistical filtering! See http://www.arxiv.org/abs/physics/0310126.

Now lunar positions are extremely important to peoples living on the Atlantic and North Sea coasts of Europe because of the extreme tides that happen there. Is it not conceivable that the pre-Celtic beaker culture people worked at doing what the Babylonians did and used stone circles in the effort? The same device used for observation could be used for calculation; this was not unheard of in ancient times; consider the astrolabe.
 
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  • #41
Astronuc
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Adding another reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

The older circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC, but the main stone circle is believed to have been constructed during the period from 2500 BC to 2000 BC.
Some archaeoastronomers have claimed that Stonehenge represents an "ancient observatory," although the extent of its use for that purpose is in dispute.
Archaeologists have found three large Mesolithic postholes nearby, beneath the modern tourist car-park, which date to around 8000 BC, . . .

For some background on Neolithic times, see -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_European_cultures
 
  • #42
Evo
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RingoKid said:
the druids needed exact dates of the year to maintain their elitist position and keep their society united under one religion.
Just a reminder that druids had nothing to do with building Stonehenge.
 
  • #43
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selfAdjoint said:
I honor of the new location may I post on the related topic of Babylonian astronomy. One of the astronomical questions of great interest to early peoples was to predict the future positions of the Moon. This is a difficult problem because the Moon is affected by both the Earth's and the Sun's gravitation to non trivial degrees. Calculation of lunar positions from his gravitation theory dfeated Newton, and modern accuracy was only obtained by the introduction of infinite dimensional matrices and determinants.

But the Babylonians by recording and correlating the place of rising of the new Moon with respect to the place of rising of the Sun that day, for 700 years,were able to construct a purely algebraic formula for the Moon's position of remarkable accuracy. Indeed their complicated arithmetic transformations have been compared to modern Fourier analysis and statistical filtering! See http://www.arxiv.org/abs/physics/0310126.

Now lunar positions are extremely important to peoples living on the Atlantic and North Sea coasts of Europe because of the extreme tides that happen there. Is it not conceivable that the pre-Celtic beaker culture people worked at doing what the Babylonians did and used stone circles in the effort? The same device used for observation could be used for calculation; this was not unheard of in ancient times; consider the astrolabe.
My computer tends to lock up when I try to open files from arxiv. :grumpy: It usually takes several attempts. I have yet to be able to read that. :frown:
 
  • #44
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Evo said:
My computer tends to lock up when I try to open files from arxiv. :grumpy: It usually takes several attempts. I have yet to be able to read that. :frown:

No kidding! What browser are you using?
 
  • #45
Evo
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It's IE, but it's not the browser, it's not a problem viewing something online, it's the file itself that is downloaded. I only have the problem on my home computer. I can't view a lot of things on here because I don't have all the bells and whistles installed on this computer. For example, if I copy text from a post here that contains smilies and paste it in a word document, I can't see them because I don't have that functionality on this computer, but I can view them just fine on my work computer.

Axiv tries to create a PDF file and it gets hosed up quite often.
 
  • #46
Astronuc
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Since this is kind of the Stonehenge thread, this seems appropriate.

Stonehenge builders' houses found
A huge ancient settlement used by the people who built Stonehenge has been found, archaeologists have said.

Excavations at Durrington Walls, near the legendary Salisbury Plain monument, uncovered remains of ancient houses.

People seem to have occupied the sites seasonally, using them for ritual feasting and funeral ceremonies.

In ancient times, this settlement would have housed hundreds of people, making it the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain.

The dwellings date back to 2,600-2,500 BC - according to the researchers, the same period that Stonehenge was built.

As for the purpose of Stonehenge -
After feasting, he speculated, people travelled down the timber circle's "avenue" to deposit their dead in the River Avon flowing towards Stonehenge. They then moved along Stonehenge's avenue to the circle, where they cremated and buried a select few of their dead.

The Sheffield University archaeologist said Stonehenge was a place for these people, who worshipped their ancestors, to commune with the spirits of the departed.

But not all archaeologists agree: "I see Stonehenge more as a living monument," archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richards told BBC News 24.

"So in terms of broad understanding of the landscape I'm not in total agreement."

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, from Wessex Archaeology, who was not a member of the research team, commented: "There haven't been many excavations near Stonehenge in recent years and the new work will stimulate exciting new theories in coming years.

"But we shouldn't forget that Stonehenge became special when people brought the stones from Wales, 250km away. Some of the answers about Stonehenge aren't just to be found in Durrington, but further afield."
 
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  • #47
Astronuc
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DNA Analysis Illuminates the History of Man
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10438216

Fresh Air from WHYY, May 25, 2007 · The latest techniques in DNA analysis have opened a window on the history of human evolution. Nicholas Wade, a science reporter for The New York Times, chronicles this new avenue of science in his book Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors.

This interview was originally broadcast on April 19, 2006.

Interesting discussion of human ancestors and language. Language apparently facilitated the coordination of group action, and those groups were more successful.
 
  • #49
arildno
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It should serve as a reminder that the clustering of henges at one spot, most of which does not "align" with any type of astronomy reduces the probability the building of any on them was for the purposes of astronomy...
 

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