Archaeologists working in Scotland have uncovered what they believe is the world’s oldest lunar ‘calendar’ (so far discovered), created some 10,000 years ago – 5000 years earlier than the first calendars of the ‘cradle of civilisation’ in the ancient Near East:
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 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 site was excavated by archaeologists after unusual crop marks were spotted from the air by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).
The analysis has been published in the journal, Internet Archaeology, and can be read online for a fee.
Update: Here’s some video from the University of Birmingham describing the site and the excavation:
Link: “‘World’s oldest calendar’ discovered in Scottish field” (BBC News)
Link: “Time and a Place: A luni-solar ‘time-reckoner’ from 8th millennium BC Scotland” (Internet Archaeology, fee required)