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World’s oldest calendar dating back more than 10,000 years discovered in Scotland

4 min read

  • 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

By  Victoria Woollaston

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.  

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 

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  

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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