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Archaeoastronomy at megalithic sites

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  • Registered Users Posts: 310 ✭✭dublinviking


    In Serbia and in Ireland day used to be counted from sunset. This probably has to do with the fact that the passing of time was calculated using moon changes. If the day was counted from the the end of the day, the sunset, was the year also counted from the end, backwards, from winter solstice? If you count from winter solstice back, using precise moon cycle of 29.53, you arrive at the first of January. Is this the reason why first of January was always the first day of the old Serbian calendar? Today in Serbia year is ending on 25th of December, because Christian church tried to remove the significance of winter solstice.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 26 Orion36


    Cianmcliam wrote: »
    The solstice is easy enough to determine to within a day or two, you just watch the sunrise or sunset position along the horizon and record the exact spot where it seems to stop moving in one direction, pause for a few days and then start moving in the opposite direction. It's just the extreme positions of the sun along the horizon. Determining the exact day is pretty hard by observing with the naked eye but if you count days carefully it can be determined. The real question is whether they were interested in such extreme precision, since there's a period of five or six days when the sun seems not to change position then getting a 'solstice' alignment that works is the easiest thing in the world to anyone interested in the movements of the sun.

    EDIT: I'd be a bit skeptical of that Scottish 'lunar calendar'!

    Modern readers are terrified of timekeeping and get upset very quickly when they are corrected however the people who built Newgrange knew what they were doing and certainly,in this day and age where they work off ridiculous and contrived principles,our era couldn't do what the ancients did and that is an occasion for an equal sense of pride and shame.

    The fact is that you can't create an alignment such as Newgrange based solely on counting days and the Sun's declination otherwise the alignment would drift by a day after 4 cycles of 365 days and after 30 years the alignment would be lost if you showed up on the same 365th day.

    People don't have a choice here,in order to maintain a fixed day to the annual solstice and equinox points they have to recognize that an additional day is required to maintain an alignment after the 4th cycle of 365 days .It can be argued that Newgrange was abandoned if they based the annual cycle on 365 days as ,after 24 years or so,the alignment would be lost on that chosen day.

    I have not known anyone else with a love of the cyclical references used for timekeeping and especially the known ones which we inherited from antiquity like the Canopus decree -

    " on account of the precession of the rising of Sirius by one day in the course of 4 years, therefore it shall be, that the year of 360 days and the 5 days added to their end, so one day shall be from this day after every 4 years added to the 5 epagomenae before the New Year, whereby all men shall learn, that what was a little defective in the order as regards the seasons and the year, as also the opinions which are contained in the rules of the learned on the heavenly orbits, are now corrected and improved" Canopus Decree ,236 BC

    I see people chancing their arm in a reckless kind of way and that doesn't build monuments like Newgrange and keep them aligned to the solstice for over 5200 years. It would be nice to encounter a genuine curious soul with the same appreciation of the cycles as the ancients once did,not only that,but frame it all in terms of the planet's dynamics.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    I was at Glastrigan Stone Row over the last few evenings in the hope that it may have been aligned to the winter solstice sunset. Yesterday I was very hopeful that it was (the sun set behind the clouds). Today less so unfortunately. It sets a good bit over to the right of what looks like the axis of the row. However the tallest (end stone) does appear to be angled in the direction of where it sets and with a small step to the left it can be shown to be aligned. I need to do a bit more checking but it may be aligned towards the lunar major sunrise.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=749472285082287&set=p.749472285082287&type=1&theater

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=749473601748822&set=p.749473601748822&type=1&theater


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 226 ✭✭randomperson12


    some earthworks have the same porpose


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    some earthworks have the same porpose

    Possibly so - do you know any examples random?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,183 ✭✭✭yellowlabrador


    I've been following this thread and I find it fascinating. I've just watched this documentary about acoustics and remember it being discussed in this thread



  • Registered Users Posts: 1,020 ✭✭✭Coles


    Excellent documentary. Thanks for posting.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    I've put together a lunar alignment database for Ireland based on Ruggles Prehistoric Astronomy of Britain & Ireland.
    As far as I can make out these are the sites that are in ball-park for the lunar cycle.

    https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=DE0E53B74BAFAA45!124&cid=de0e53b74bafaa45&app=Excel&wdo=2


  • Registered Users Posts: 776 ✭✭✭Fries-With-That


    bawn79 wrote: »
    I've put together a lunar alignment database for Ireland based on Ruggles Prehistoric Astronomy of Britain & Ireland.
    As far as I can make out these are the sites that are in ball-park for the lunar cycle.

    https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=DE0E53B74BAFAA45!124&cid=de0e53b74bafaa45&app=Excel&wdo=2

    +1,Nice work.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,625 ✭✭✭AngryHippie


    Anyway, back to a more serious question.


    So the chevron patterns at Newgrange have 12 repetitions, which matches the resonance of the tomb, whereas the lunar calender year (354.37 days) will have be almost 13 cycles per year.

    Could the chevron patterns have more to do with the acoustics than with the measurement of the sun.

    None of the major stone age monuments in question are adjacent the sea, or seem to make any measurements regarding time, so perhaps the Lunar significance is less than previously thought ?

    Or is there a definite repetition of Lunar alignments ?

    I'm not really sure what my question is....

    I still definitely think that the stone basins were used as either smoke or steam generators on the solstice/equinox (depending on the monument) alignments, and that the resonance of the structures were used to create standing waves.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 310 ✭✭dublinviking


    in Serbian old name for full moon was "uštap". uštap = u + štap = into + stick = mark it into a stick. Remember the oldest portable lunar calendar found in Serbia.

    8000 years old lunar calendar (first pocket calendar) found in Serbia.

    rep-Medvednjak-figura_620x0.jpg


    http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=87951351&postcount=59

    This one is made out of mammoth tusk with notches on it for each day. It was probably temple object. Ordinary people probably made calendars from a stick with notches cut in for each "uštap", full moon. Shepherds in mountains in Serbia were still counting time using stick calendars in 20th century.

    have fun


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,576 ✭✭✭cfuserkildare


    Hey DUBLINVIKING,

    Just a quick question about the pocket calendar,

    What size is it? It looks to be fairly small.

    It must have come from a very small mammoth if it can fit into a pocket!

    Also, I do not understand how this relates to the alignment of ancient monuments with the sun/moon and stars??


  • Registered Users Posts: 310 ✭✭dublinviking


    I have no idea how big this is. When they say pocket, they mean not stuck into the ground or painted on a rock.

    As for how this relates to alignment of monuments, i already explained once before:
    So once you determine the two extremes, or just one, the winter one for instance, you use lunar change to measure the time between. But because the lunar cycle is shorter than the calendar year, you will need to adjust it every year by determining the solstice. But if you already know the length of the lunar cycle (28 - 30 days, depending on precision), you can start marking the lunar months on the line representing two sun opposites. So you end up with composite solar lunar calendar. It starts at winter solstice, then you have one stone (or a notch on a stick if you are away from the main calendar) per 28 (or 30 depends how precise you are) days month. This gives you 12 or 13 months and "extra" days, known as "dead days" in Serbia or "mratinci". In Serbia these are 7 extra days that you have left after 12 lunar months of 29 days each. These are taboo days. Then From winter solstice, the lunar cycle starts again.

    Serbian sun god dies every year and gets reborn.


    What is interesting is that the name of the full moon in Serbian reflects the old custom of using sun - moon calendar.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 226 ✭✭randomperson12


    funny no one from midlands east galway area on here only me


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,219 Mod ✭✭✭✭slowburner


    Posts that were wandering further and further off topic have been moved to this thread and related posts have been deleted.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    The upending movement of the seasons continues and the upcoming cross quarter day is due on the 3rd February. I have put together a list of the suspected alignment sites on my new blog http://megalithicarchaeoastronomy.blogspot.ie/p/nov-feb-cross-quarter-day.html - searching for pics on the internet I noticed that there are no pictures of sun-rise from Cairn U up on Carnbane East at the Feb - Nov Cross Quarter. So if any one is in the area it might be an interesting one to take a look at.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 715 ✭✭✭Cianmcliam


    I've been up to Cairn U three times over the years, cloudy every time! Last time I went up I got a short burst a little after sunrise, will have a look and see if the pics are worth seeing. From what I could see, the sun shifts out of the passage very quickly after sunrise so any cloud on the horizon could be a problem.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    Cianmcliam wrote: »
    I've been up to Cairn U three times over the years, cloudy every time! Last time I went up I got a short burst a little after sunrise, will have a look and see if the pics are worth seeing. From what I could see, the sun shifts out of the passage very quickly after sunrise so any cloud on the horizon could be a problem.

    Hey Cian,

    Ya I figured you might have made a few attempts at it! Did you bring your tarpaulin to go over the passage?
    I've been down to Knockroe a few times over the years and I think that without using a covering tarpaulin there that we will never get to see the true effect of the sunset.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 715 ✭✭✭Cianmcliam


    No, didn't bring the tarpaulin! Used it a few times on Carnbane West but the one I have is too light to have a major effect, it's also blue which makes photos look weird.

    They had a frame over the west tomb at Knockroe at one point, I assume to cover it over like the kerbstone on the opposite side, the frame has since vanished though.


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  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 26 Orion36


    Anyway, back to a more serious question.

    None of the major stone age monuments in question are adjacent the sea, or seem to make any measurements regarding time, so perhaps the Lunar significance is less than previously thought ?

    You have to think like the original builders and consider why they chose the inland site .

    It still amazes me just how learned those old builders were and the physical restrictions which go along with the solstice marker. It is no use building an alignment with a light show like Newgrange down by the coast as the light of the rising Sun is far too weak until it is well above the horizon and suitable sites East of Newgrange to the coast are limited.

    The hill above where the Sun rises at the Solstice would have to match the altitude of the hill where the monument is built insofar as if the hill opposite the monument were too low the problem would have been the same as the coast and if it were too high the declination would be problematic for construction of a roofbox and entirely impractical. People have to love the practicalities which would enchant any architect today in terms of form and function.


    Gerald Samsung galaxy s2 027.jpg


    The photo is of a natural equinox alignment on the coast at Clogherhead known as the 'Red Man's Cave' (owing to the color of marine growth) and personally I like the possibility that it is a natural template for the great Newgrange entrance. In some respects it is possible to see why a sea level monument is impractical so the natural cave does serve a purpose in the archaeological scheme of things.

    Btw, one thing I really like about Newgrange is the recognizable fern indented in the interior and exterior and anyone who visits the headland of Clogherhead will see no ferns on the South side of the headland while the North side,for obvious reasons,is covered in ferns.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    Cianmcliam wrote: »
    No, didn't bring the tarpaulin! Used it a few times on Carnbane West but the one I have is too light to have a major effect, it's also blue which makes photos look weird.

    They had a frame over the west tomb at Knockroe at one point, I assume to cover it over like the kerbstone on the opposite side, the frame has since vanished though.

    I have a big sheet of thick black plastic - I do wonder what the Gardaí would think of it if I was stopped!


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    The Spring Equinox is on the 20th of March this year. I've updated my blog with the full list of potential Equinox sites for next week. Hopefully a few people will get out to observe and record some of these alignments.

    http://megalithicarchaeoastronomy.blogspot.ie/p/1.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    bawn79 wrote: »
    The Spring Equinox is on the 20th of March this year. I've updated my blog with the full list of potential Equinox sites for next week. Hopefully a few people will get out to observe and record some of these alignments.

    http://megalithicarchaeoastronomy.blogspot.ie/p/1.html

    I visited this stone pair in North Tipperary Lisheentyrone which is aligned in an east west direction for the equinox sunset. The sun sets behind two hills to the west. One on the Tipperary side of Lough Derg and one on the Clare side.

    The second stone has fallen over but it seems to be pretty accurate.

    http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/128019/lisheentyrone.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    It can be argued that the Nov / Feb cross quarter day possibly relates to Samhain and Imbolc in the "Celtic" calendar. There seems to be quite a few suspected alignments at this time (Approx 20 sites on the spreadsheet I put together).
    Now what really weakens the cross quarter argument is that to date I have only three potential sites for the May (Beltaine) / Aug (Lughnasa) cross quarter alignments. Namely Grange Lios, Beltany Tops and Cairn S at Loughcrew.
    Anyone have any suggestions as to why that might be?
    I've been rereading the "Festival of Lughnasa" (Basically a list of over 100 Lughnasa assembly sites) by Maire MacNeill and her analysis shows that the festival of Lughnasa was celebrated mainly on hill-tops, lakes / rivers and at some assembly sites.
    Is there any connection between the "Festival of Lughnasa" and the August cross quarter? Could these sites have been chosen originally for some astronomical observation function? If not then why was the Nov / Feb cross quarter more important than the May / Aug one?


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    I've updated my blog with the full list of potential Summer Solstice sites for next week. Hopefully a few people will get out to observe and record some of these alignments.

    http://megalithicarchaeoastronomy.blogspot.ie/p/5_16.html


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 608 ✭✭✭Bonedigger


    bawn79 wrote: »
    It can be argued that the Nov / Feb cross quarter day possibly relates to Samhain and Imbolc in the "Celtic" calendar. There seems to be quite a few suspected alignments at this time (Approx 20 sites on the spreadsheet I put together).
    Now what really weakens the cross quarter argument is that to date I have only three potential sites for the May (Beltaine) / Aug (Lughnasa) cross quarter alignments. Namely Grange Lios, Beltany Tops and Cairn S at Loughcrew.
    Anyone have any suggestions as to why that might be?
    I've been rereading the "Festival of Lughnasa" (Basically a list of over 100 Lughnasa assembly sites) by Maire MacNeill and her analysis shows that the festival of Lughnasa was celebrated mainly on hill-tops, lakes / rivers and at some assembly sites.
    Is there any connection between the "Festival of Lughnasa" and the August cross quarter? Could these sites have been chosen originally for some astronomical observation function? If not then why was the Nov / Feb cross quarter more important than the May / Aug one?

    I think there may very well be evidence out there to suggest that there was a connection between the August cross-quarter day and the 'Festival of Lúghnasadh'.In fact,I've been doing a little research myself into a possible relationship between the celebrations of Lúghnasadh at the royal site of Dún Ailinne and some astronomical observations I've witnessed on the nearby Curragh.The image below shows the August cross-quarter day sunset on Red Hill in Co.Kildare.This was observed from the Gibbet Rath which lies c. 7 kms.
    E-NE of Red Hill.

    D53A31C27C4A49BA9F0507700B85FEBC-0000372749-0003598942-01024L-D389F0C562FE4CEFB07922C3BB77758E.jpg

    DDAD5B59103F4461838FA54E5E9A692D-0000372749-0003598962-01024L-9D30C30725C846C5AA30A55F2ADC557B.jpg

    The curious thing about this sunset is that the sun does not appear to descend behind the summit of the hill,but at a point very close to where a multivallate ring-barrow is sited(SMR no. KD022-009).This barrow lies some 200 metres to the east of the summit.

    35BA26E02491498FBAD7FFB972620DB2-0000372749-0003598954-01024L-078BE281D12A4BF7A9A76E2D2F9B30C3.jpg

    I only got a window of about a half an hour to get the shots of the sunset(the days before and after were dreadfully overcast),and with the clouds partially screening the descending sun,it was difficult to see exactly where its disc was in relation to the top of the hill.However,upon closer inspection of the images it would appear that the sun had passed below the hill just to the right of the site of the multivallate ring-barrow.It seemed to me that the Gibbet Rath was not afterall the intended place where the August cross-quarter day sunset was to be observed.The Gibbet Rath lies close to a cluster of barrows(Cluster E;The Curragh:a Prehistoric Landscape - Pádraig Clancy),which lie on the crest of an east-west aligned ridge called Long Hill.
    Long Hill is the site of the present day military camp on the Curragh(I will return to the importance of Long Hill in this research below).One particular barrow - KD023-044 - lies less than 300m. to the E-NE of the Gibbet Rath.I have more than a hunch that it was at this very barrow that the August cross-quarter sunset was meant to be observed.This barrow sits on a prominent ridge where it has panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.Red Hill is clearly visible and the royal site of Dún Ailinne/Knockaulin would also have been visible to the SE,although today it's obscured by a plantation of trees.

    1F37A73757D14AB8BA2E407C22693C8B-0000372749-0003598943-01024L-5A0924E030864869A9019D965C966B69.jpg

    43EB6C440C054CCA8A7F739FDF0A9F77-0000372749-0003598955-01024L-A5C7549699FC4F25BCA73E8E66D265B8.jpg

    The yellow line in the image above represents an alignment from the multivallate ring-barrow(KD022-009) on Red Hill to the ring-barrow KD023-044 close to the Gibbet Rath.In the strictest sense of the word it's not a true alignment when you compare it to the very precise alignments observed at megalithic tombs or at stone circles,but I think it's significant enough to have been of spiritual and ritualistic importance to the people who built these barrows.While studying this alignment,I stumbled upon something rather curious and possibly exciting,but I'm not sure?I noticed how close the Cursus-like monument on Long Hill was to the barrows on this ridge,so I extended the perceived barrow-to-barrow alignment and low and behold this alignment came very close to what may have been the W-NW facing terminus of the Cursus.There is much debate as to whether this recorded monument was indeed a Cursus,but it certainly bears similarities to other so-called Cursus monuments.
    Unfortunately it no longer exists,but was recorded on the OSI Historic 6" maps
    - see here: http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,678077,711504,6,7

    Is it possible that the Cursus monument played a role in the August cross-quarter day sunset rituals/celebrations?We can't be sure of course that that is where the terminus of the Cursus was,but even if the Cursus monument was longer,that surely would mean that those standing within the Cursus at that point would witness the cross-quarter sunset on Red Hill?In fact,it would also mean that it was possible to see the May cross-quarter day sunset here too.

    56B782395BCF4CF4A3551885E2B7566C-0000372749-0003598956-00800L-A6E83B7BC5224036B2F6E8DEAF553D02.jpg

    The questions posed by Bawn above are very relevant here I believe.The royal site of Dún Ailinne lies c.6.5kms. to the SE of this cluster of monuments.

    18F252A5194D48B796E20C74BC609AF9-0000372749-0003598961-00800L-5FDA269F2F1E4C6B992B17AE727B49F9.jpg

    Dún Ailinne is mentioned in the Dindseanchas and is believed to have been the site of Lúghnasadh festival celebrations.About seven or eight years ago I paid a visit to Dún Ailinne and by pure chance happened to meet Professor Ronald Hicks there.Professor Hicks,an anthropologist,was a member of the American team who carried out excavations on the summit of the hill in the 1970's.During these excavations it was discovered that one could observe the summer solstice sun descend behind a range of hills to the northwest.Red Hill lies on these very same range of hills which are known locally as 'the Chair Hills'.Carrickanearla(Cathaoir an Iarla/Carraig an Iarla),believed to be an inauguration site of the kings of the Uí Failghe,is a mound which sits quite prominently between the summits of the hills of Dunmurry and Grange.The summer solstice sun is seen to descend between these two hills close to the mound of Carrickanearla.Professor Hicks proposes that these two hills may be the hills that are referred to in the Dindseanchas as 'Adarca Hui Failgi',the Horns of Offaly/the Horns of Eochaid's Cattle.

    9F103135A24B471DA229D926907EF629-0000372749-0003598977-00800L-ECC1F2C6D6B245F5B5DC27710CC120D7.jpg

    Professor Hicks argues that Dún Ailinne belonged to a much wider sacred landscape and explains it far better than I ever could in a paper entitled "Dún Ailinne's Role in Folklore,Myth and the Sacred Landscape",which can be downloaded as a PDF from Bawn's Megalithicarchaeoastronomy site on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/MegalithicArcheoAstronomy

    I think what I'm trying to get at here is that we know Dún Ailinne played a significant role in the Festival of Lúghnasadh,but did the astronomical observations I've outlined above have a role in those celebrations and rituals too?The Curragh is recorded in the 'Annals of the Four Masters' as the site of two Óenigh,Óenach Cholmain and Oénach Life.Is it possible that those gathered for either of these Óenigh witnessed the August cross-quarter day sunset from the site of the barrows,or even more tantalisingly,from the Cursus?

    Bawn and I spoke privately about this some time ago.I must apologise to you Bawn for going AWOL and not replying to you when I should have,but got tied up in something else at that time and took time away from the forum.I hope you don't mind me clogging up this thread on you?!


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,219 Mod ✭✭✭✭slowburner


    Great post Bonedigger.
    Apologies in advance for drifting away from the thread topic.
    There is another cursus at Brewel Hill (KD032-058). This cursus may align with a cursus on Keadeen mountain which I think may also be visible to the extreme right in your photos from Gibbet Rath .
    If there is a relationship between the lowland and upland cursus (the plural of cursus is cursus!) then we might expect that there should be one somewhere below the Coolasneachta cursus (see the Cailín Slipes - not yet listed on the SMR).
    There is yet another cursus at Lugnagun, overlooking Blessington lakes (also not yet listed).
    It is conceivable that the Curragh cursus aligns with Lugnagun but I doubt that they are visible to each other.
    Christiaan Corlett writes about the Leinster cursus monuments in the current issue of Archaeology Ireland.
    Undoubtedly, this monument type is in the very early stages of both discovery and understanding. Being somewhat in the mix with the newer discoveries, I am convinced that there are at least two classes; upland and lowland. The upland cursus are entirely different to the lowland monuments (Tara, Newgrange, Stonehenge, Dorset et al, and perhaps the Curragh and Brewell Hill) I believe, and may have had an entirely different and as yet unknown function.
    One of the characteristics which determines cursus classification (so far) is the existence of a terminus. Not all the known cursus show a terminus. Whether these were robbed out or never existed is not known and is unlikely to be determined without excavation.


  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    Very comprehensive post Bone-digger and glad to have you back. The observation about the cursus is really interesting and I suppose if someone goes to the trouble of marking an alignment then to me it would make more sense to point to it with something impressive such as a cursus rather than small like a ring-barrow.

    The August cross quarter is coming up soon so hopefully a chance to see where the sunsets. Although you may get some funny looks from those soldiers if your standing around taking pictures!


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  • Registered Users Posts: 419 ✭✭bawn79


    Really interesting slow-burner about the cursus. Id say there is a good chance there are a lot of these lying around the landscape waiting to be discovered. Particularly if a relatively small area in Wicklow has revealed so many.
    That's a great blog by the way, is that yours slowburner?


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