- The monument is made up of 12 pits that appear to mimic moon phases
- This would have made it possible for residents to track lunar months
- It was discovered in Warren Field near Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire
- The discovery predates the earliest known calendar by 5,000 years
PUBLISHED: 11:44 EST, 15 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:46 EST, 15 July 2013
Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world’s oldest ‘calendar’ in a field in Scotland.
A group of 12 pits recently excavated in Aberdeenshire appear to mimic and align with the phases of the moon, making it possible to track lunar months over the course of a year.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham now believe that the monument dates back 10,000 years – predating the earliest known calendar by 5,000 years.
A group of 12 pits recently excavated in Aberdeenshire appear to mimic the phases of the moon to track lunar months over the course of a year. Researchers from the University of Birmingham now believe this monument could be the world’s oldest ‘calendar’ and dates back 10,000 years
MAYAN CALENDAR UNCOVERED
A Mayan calendar was recently uncovered inside a vast city built by the ancient civilisation near Guatemala.
One wall of the calendar was covered in calculations that appeared to relate to the Mayan calendar.
It featured a line-up of men in black uniforms and the astrological calculations are not fully understood.
Archaeologists from Boston University believe the dates stretch up to 7,000 years into the future and contradicted the ‘doomsday’ predictions about 2012.
The first formal time-measuring devices were thought to have been created in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago.
The pit alignment near Crathes Castle predates those discoveries by thousands of years, experts say.
The Mesolithic monument at Warren Field is said to have been created by hunter-gatherer societies nearly 10,000 years ago.
It was excavated between 2004 and 2006 and was recently analysed by researchers from the University of Birmingham.
They found that the monument pits align during the Midwinter sunrise, which researchers say would provide an annual ‘astronomic correction’ to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the moon, the solar year and the seasons.
The project was led by Vince Gaffney, professor of landscape archaeology at the University of Birmingham.
This is an artist’s impression from the University of Birmingham of a fire burning in one of the lunar calendar pits at Warren Field from around 8,000 BC, in Crathes, Aberdeenshire
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.
University of Birmingham professor Vince Gaffney, pictured, stands in front of the 10,000-year-old excavated lunar pits
‘In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself.’
Dr Richard Bates from the University of St Andrews, was also involved in the project and said the pit monument provided new evidence of the ‘sophistication’ of societies in early Mesolithic Scotland.
‘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 Fields was constructed,’ he said.
The pit site was first discovered when unusual crop markings were noticed during an aerial survey by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
It lies on the National Trust for Scotland’s Crathes Castle estate and was excavated by the trust and Murray Archaeological Services.
Dr Shannon Fraser, the trust’s archaeologist for eastern Scotland, 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.’
The research was published in the journal Internet Archaeology.
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