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Oldest Lunar Calendar Found In Scotland

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the saving-dates dept.

Moon 51

First time accepted submitter eionmac writes "The BBC reports that Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest lunar 'calendar' in an Aberdeenshire field. 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 analyzed 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 analysis has been published in the journal Internet Archaeology."

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ahem (5, Funny)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44285959)

The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.

So, first moon post?

Thanks, I'll be here all week. Try the filet mignon.

Re:ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286013)

They found a crack in it.

Re:ahem (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44287333)

That's no moon... post.

Very useful (1)

Kohath (38547) | about a year ago | (#44286009)

Now we'll know exactly how long the whiskey has been aging.

Sotland (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44286091)

Something else Invented In Scotland, then?

Re:Sotland (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44286199)

Something else Invented In Scotland, then?

Or something even older but more widespread than we've liked to believe.

There's, what, 100K years or more before what we call 'civilization' happened -- for all we know, this was common knowledge a very very long time ago.

The more they study it ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44286149)

The more they realize that there was a lot more known by pre-historic people than we've suspected.

Mankind had many thousands of years to try to do things before we had a written history, and everyone likes to believe those cultures were oblivious.

But it seems the more they look at this, the more things like agriculture, building, and some understanding of astronomy was a lot more widespread.

It didn't just suddenly start with the Egyptians.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286461)

Or they're applying today's understanding to something that looks similar and claiming it's ancient knowledge. Coincidence is the first thing to be discarded when you want more grant money. When something is dated several millenia before the birth of civilization, you're going to need more than a few holes in the ground to have real evidence for extraordinary claims.

Re:The more they study it ... (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44286701)

When something is dated several millenia before the birth of civilization

See, the problem is 10,000 years ago isn't before the birth of civilization, it's just before civilization as we know it and have historically understood it.

People have tended to believe the Sumerians and Babylonians were the first civilizations, but there's mounting evidence that there were things going on that predates that by quite a bit.

The whole point is the more they discover, they more they are pushing back the 'birth of civilization'.

Re:The more they study it ... (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44288225)

The oldest known written texts are quite sophisticated and describe great cities and long ocean voyages, possibly based on events 14,000 years ago [wikipedia.org] .

This great new discovery is younger than that. Is it really so surprising that lunar calenders existed in 10000BC, even in 'barbaric' places? We know that even the barbarians traveled quite widely and were exposed to other cultures.

Re:The more they study it ... (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44288415)

The wikipedia link you posted suggests that the Trojan War as in the 12th Century BC, which would put it at 3200 years ago, NOT 14,000 years ago and significantly more recent than the above discovery.

Re:The more they study it ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44287561)

Maybe they can use this to prove that fallacy of global warming?

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44290385)

Or they're applying today's understanding to something that looks similar and claiming it's ancient knowledge. Coincidence is the first thing to be discarded when you want more grant money. When something is dated several millenia before the birth of civilization, you're going to need more than a few holes in the ground to have real evidence for extraordinary claims.

There is a lot of truth to what you say. Far too often ancient things are re-interpreted in the light of modern knowledge to be things that would have been completely un-necessary to the ancients.

The study took "yaahrs", but it never occurred to them that this area was heavily forested before roman times, and their pits and polls would not have been able to be used to measure sun or moon rise. Hunter gatherer societies weren't very good at clearing the land.

The phase of the moon is not particularly important to hunter/gatherers. Night hunts (which are not common in any primitive societies) are possible when you have a moon and weather, but you don't need a lunar calendar to tell you when that will next be the case. Some marine food sources are more accessible during certain tides, but you either live by the sea and know this is going to happen again just like last year, or you don't partake of this harvest.

Nor would a people that lived exclusively out of doors need an observatory to tell them the time of year. If anything the change of the season is all too painfully obvious to people who eat, sleep, and live outside their entire lives.

I don't doubt that there may have been some old geezers pondering the movements of the moon and trying to figure them out.

And being elders, they would have no problem talking kids into digging holes and pounding stakes for them. But this would have been simply an inquisitive project of someone too old and infirm to hunt and gather, not something the society relied upon. And it would have been done with very little labor probably in summer, or times of plenty, because hunter gatherer societies were not large bands, and had no excess labor to donate to much besides staying alive.

In some ways this is a more appealing and defensible theory than building a calendar with which to survive. Because they have survived long enough to build the calendar clearly shows they didn't need the calendar, and also it indicates reflection and contemplation of the world around them started way earlier than most people believe.

Re:The more they study it ... (3, Interesting)

PmanAce (1679902) | about a year ago | (#44286487)

Who is claiming everything started with the Egyptians?

Re:The more they study it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286599)

The Egyptians....

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

gslj (214011) | about a year ago | (#44287699)

Who is claiming everything started with the Egyptians?

Grafton Elliot Smith [wikipedia.org] and and William James Perry [wikipedia.org] did.

-Gareth

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

PmanAce (1679902) | about a year ago | (#44320433)

And? Two out of 6 billion.

Re:The more they study it ... (5, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#44286919)

Duh?

Most people are surprised by how intelligent ancient humans were because in their mind, they begin with the fallacy that people today (i.e. themselves) are more intelligent than people ten, twelve, fifteen thousand years ago. This in and of itself is an extrapolation from the certainty that they are smarter than their parents and grandparents.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

yusing (216625) | about a year ago | (#44289395)

Some people dispose of that fallacy by the time they reach 40 or 50 - once they learn enough history to realize that we keep repeating it as if determined to prove that 'smarter than' is a fallacy.

*sigh* can't tell these kids today anything

Re:The more they study it ... (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#44287137)

Recorded history begins with Egyptians because they were the first ones to record history in an enduring medium still readable after 5000 years. Chinese might have recorded history but it was probably lost. Indians don't have the habit of recording much. Most of Indian history comes from the records of Greeks [wikipedia.org] Chinese [wikipedia.org] or fragmentary stone inscriptions on temples and carved pillars.

But before recorded history we have some reconstructed history from artifacts. Tracing the histories of domesticated plants and animals also give us some insight into earlier histories. Then there is genetic and DNA research. As our technology improves we get greater insights and better reconstructed history. For example, now we can now answer when we started wearing clothes. http://scienceandreason2.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/when-did-humans-start-wearing-clothes/ [wordpress.com]

So we are not simply going to say it started with the Egyptians. We will say it started with the Africans.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about a year ago | (#44287295)

The Sumerians of Mesopotamia called and said you're wrong, their cuneiform writing predates Egyptian hieroglyphs

....and also to tell those pyramid building bastards to suck it.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44287415)

No, it doesn't. Look at the phonetically written toponyms discovered by Günter Dreyer in the tomb designated as U-j in Abydos in 1998.

Re:The more they study it ... (2)

triffid_98 (899609) | about a year ago | (#44288509)

Yes, it does. Dreyer's text was dated between 3200 and 3300BC, Mesopotamian writing came several hundred years earlier and was based on record keeping dating back to 8000BC.

...but thanks for playing and please accept a copy of our home game.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#44290349)

Oh, yeah. Forgotten the Sumerians. Their cuneiform tablets are older than Egyptian hieroglyphs. Bonus aside: Cartoon of an archaeologist in an excavation pit shouting to another one standing above the rim: "This must be their government office, everything here is in triplicate".

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about a year ago | (#44292757)

Oh, yeah. Forgotten the Sumerians.

There were several regions developing written language around that time (within a few hundred years of one another). It's possible that they all descended from Sumerian writing (since it's the oldest that's been found, and the other regions aren't too far away, Egypt and India) but obviously no one knows for sure, we just know what we've found. There is some evidence for even older scripts in Africa but not enough artifacts have survived to say what's a symbol and what's a decoration.

Ignorant != Oblivious (1)

srussia (884021) | about a year ago | (#44287205)

Mankind had many thousands of years to try to do things before we had a written history, and everyone likes to believe those cultures were oblivious.

Oblivious means "lacking all memory; forgetful".

Insofar as such cultures lacked writing, they are indeed "oblivious", notwithstanding some form of oral transmission of knowledge such as "Thirty days hath September..."

Re:Ignorant != Oblivious (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44290505)

notwithstanding some form of oral transmission of knowledge

That a pretty big thing to simply dismiss out of hand.

Oral traditions can extend back thousands of years. They are the first thing extinguished when writing arrives, and the next war, fire, flood, removes them from human knowledge.

Re:The more they study it ... (3, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#44287229)

I've found that people today are generally very dismissive of early cultures, as if 'primitive' was synonymous with stupid.

Personally, in terms of raw horsepower (and conceding that these early people would likely have much more broadly suffered early childhood illnesses, malnutrition, and such that would generally impair higher functions) I suspect early peoples were generally much MORE intelligent than we are today.

Of course, it could be that they weren't so constantly distracted. I'd think about this more, but I think someone just texted me.

Re:The more they study it ... (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44290605)

Something to be said for that theory.

But the intelligence was probably more focused on survival skills. What plants you could eat, where/when to hunt, how to avoid predators and enemy tribes, sources for workable stones, skins, etc. Much of this was oral knowledge.

They may well have had their share of imbeciles and morons. There is probably no consistency in how these were handled in all early civilizations, but I suspect more than a few were drowned or sacrificed.

On the other hand they probably did not put up with anti social or homicidal whack jobs like we do today.
Those people either became tribal leaders, or were executed. Probably both, in that order.

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#44313275)

Banishment was often an option for dealing with anti-social nut-jobs. Imbeciles and other people that were plain old different often were accepted and even considered holy.

Re:The more they study it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44287325)

...It didn't just suddenly start with the Egyptians

In Britain, usually it all suddenly starts with the Romans..though if you watch the 'popular archaeology' Television program in the UK you'd be forgiven in thinking it all started with those Pesky Anglo-Saxons...

TR (Presenter): "We're hoping for good anglo-saxon finds here today..
PH (Archaeologist #1): "Well, this feature is Iron Age, all the Pottery we're getting is Iron Age..
TR (Presenter): (Ignores this revelation) 'so hopefully we'll have an anglo-saxon great hall by the end of the program..'
MA (RIP, Archaeologist #2): 'This trench has uncovered Roman remains and pottery...'
TR (Presenter): (with fingers in ears screaming 'la la la la') '..so now over to some lame Anglo-Saxon re-enacters' (Sealed Knot rejects)

(I really love the episode where he doesn't even take the hint from some Oxbridge geneticist that around 80% of the English population are of Celtic descent..)

Re:The more they study it ... (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44287493)

(I really love the episode where he doesn't even take the hint from some Oxbridge geneticist that around 80% of the English population are of Celtic descent..)

Certainly you're mistaken. The majority of English genetic material, as far as I know, is actually of pre-Celtic descent. Both the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon element were mostly cultural admixtures rather than large-scale population movements. Certainly no genocide of the original population took place. Or am I wrong?

...WHAT? Mick is dead? Fuck me. Fuck me again. :(

Re:The more they study it ... (1)

Arker (91948) | about a year ago | (#44289265)

Genocide is really a modern concept and no one in ancient times actually had the power to pull it off - not to say that something very like it was not attempted routinely. But a modern genocide implies killing off a group utterly - men women and children. In ancient times it was very rare to kill the women and children, though that does not necessarily mean they would be treated well. But more importantly the scale of conflicts was simply much smaller. You could have all hell break loose in one valley without it having too much effect a mile or two up the road. At that scale what we think of as genocide really isnt possible.

The closest to genocide you would be likely to see was a small group of warriors moving into an area, killing men and taking women. Small groups of males would travel large distances for this sort of thing, while people generally, most males and essentially all females appear to have lived and died within a mile of where they were born. And that is what the genetics of the British Isles appears to reflect - continuity on the female side going all the way back to early stone age settlements, with episode after episode of 'peppering' with foreign men, celtic, scandinavian, saxon, and so forth.

Pretty much the same story all over the world, actually, not just the british isles.

Re:The more they study it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44291169)

Certainly you're mistaken. The majority of English genetic material, as far as I know, is actually of pre-Celtic descent.

Just going with what the Gene-botherer on the program was saying, probably a case of the usual simplified logic of
if (Bad_Toothed_One ne (Roman | Angle | Saxon | Jute | Norseman | Pakistani | Indian)) then {Bad_Toothed_One = Celt}

Both the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon element were mostly cultural admixtures rather than large-scale population movements.

Ah yes, the thorny question of who/what is a Celt? rears it's ugly head again - genes or culture alone? - I'm assuming the Gene-botherers are working on that one..but using Scotland as an example of a nominally Celtic nation, it's perfectly valid for someone like Hardeep Singh Kohli to regard himself as being Scottish, despite being born in London and being of Indian ancestry, whereas someone like Craig Ferguson, despite being born in Scotland and being of Scottish ancestry, is most decidedly American and only plays the ' wha's like us?' card when it's financially advantageous (like a fair number of other notable 'Scots' - you ken who they are..), so, personally I'd go for culture.
I suppose the same could be said of the Irish 'Plastic Paddy' element as well (more Oirish than the Irish), as for the Welsh, who knows?.
Being Celtic is a state of mind (and, as a subset, being Scottish is a state of Bloody Mindedness..)

.
Certainly no genocide of the original population took place. Or am I wrong?

...

No Genocide(s) as we'd define them nowadays, but if we're talking about the Romans, some of the British tribes didn't fare too well, and as for the Druid caste..Golden Sickles vs Gladius..and that's why today we've that bunch of Masonic poseurs faffing around at Stonehenge nowadays with their faux Victorian-Edwardian Celtic revivalist nonsensical rituals.

WHAT? Mick is dead? Fuck me. Fuck me again. :(

Indeed.
I'd given up on the program a couple of years ago, I hadn't realised until I read the online obituaries that he'd given up on it as well, I've only caught a couple of the recent episodes over the past couple of days as well as some of the older ones they've been as they've been running as a tribute to him, chalk and cheese.

That settles it (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#44286271)

The Scots must be lunatics!

Re:That settles it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44287573)

The Scots must be lunatics!

Wir no aw lunies ye ken.
Frae the screed ye'll see yon curcle was in Aeberdeenshire. As ye'll nae doobt ken, thay're aw sheep shaggers tae a gadgie up in 'ooisiebuits ceety' laund, so they needit to ken when the muin wisnae oot, so's they be able tae bewave an smook up on yon puir wyteless yowes..

Re:That settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44288321)

away with ya back to porridge wog land ya devil in a skirt.

Re:That settles it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44291409)

away with ya back to porridge wog land ya devil in a skirt.

Awa bile yer heid, ya chaunnerin fuil!, 'tisnae a coatie, 'tis a Kilt.

D'ye ken why siccan braw Scots laddies weir the Kilt onyways?

Yon yowes gat tae the kennin o' the dinsome rivin doon o' the zippaurs o' the trews..

Re:That settles it (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44288025)

The Scots must be lunatics!

So that's why they were mooning at the English in Braveheart?

thnkss (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286517)

The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.

küptas [incitasyapi.com]

Of course, it wasn't in Africa, was it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286603)

... we all knew that...

The Africans were too busy building pyramids and helicopters, thousands of years ago, allegedly... LOL.

Are you sick of having non-whites in your country? Do you things are going to get BETTER for you, and your white children, next year, when there are even MORE third world parasites demanding this and that from 'whitey'? How about in ten years' time, when your children are only 20% of under 18 year olds? I'm sure it's going to be just wonderful for them, and you...

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44286687)

The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post

or a tree.

Simple Explanation (3, Funny)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#44286887)

All the amazing accomplishments by ancient civilizations can be easily explained.

Nothing good on TV.

Re:Simple Explanation (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44287883)

But there's still nothing good on TV . . .

Hollywood (1)

Parker Lewis (999165) | about a year ago | (#44287201)

Thinking about Hollywood, this Calendar has some end of times on it? Can we make a movie about it?

Pit may have contained ... (1, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44287635)

... the First Post!

Late, I know. But someone had to do it.

Internet Archeology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44288251)

Do they also publish papers on Geocities and Altavista?

Aberdeenshire: land of the Night Hobbits (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#44288807)

They're also known for their shadow melds and healing moon pools.

Are they sure (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44289277)

Are they sure this is the oldest one, or could there be an older one yet to be discovered? If there are yet older ones undiscovered, than this one isn't the oldest.

Does it hve a "Version 1.0" on it somewhere?

Getcha pit map here! (1)

yusing (216625) | about a year ago | (#44289415)

This discovery comes just in the nick of time as the myth of Nessie dies out and tourism is plummeting.

Nice design... (1)

Richard Kirk (535523) | about a year ago | (#44295355)

I have always wondered why people build stone circles for astronomical measurements. You could do a lot better by picking some distant landmark - the pass in this case - and moving sideways until the sun or moon appears aligned. Better still, pick something that is above you, so you are looking slightly upwards - if you were trying to mark the position where the sun sets over the sea, there is a lot of atmosphere that may contain clouds and stop the reading, and a lot of distortion. This uses a valley, and a set of sticks in the ground: more accuracy for less effort than stone circles.
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