July 15, 2013
Archaeologists Discover World’s Oldest Calendar In Scotland
[ Watch the Video: The Beginning Of Time? ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineArchaeology experts say they have made a remarkable discover of what could potentially be the world's oldest "calendar."
The ancient calendar dates back to around 8,000 BC, predating the first formal time-measuring devices known to man by nearly 5,000 years. The scientists wrote in the journal Internet Archaeology that they believe that understanding when time began to get logged is critical to understanding how society developed.
The researchers discovered that a monument created by hunter-gatherers in Aberdeenshire appears to mimic the phases of the Moon, keeping track of lunar months over the course of a year. The monument also aligns on the Midwinter Sunrise, providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time and the changing seasons.
"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," said project leader Vince Gaffney, Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. "In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself."
The Warren Field site was first discovered as unusual crop marks spotted from the air by the Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).
"We have been taking photographs of the Scottish landscape for nearly 40 years, recording thousands of archaeological sites that would never have been detected from the ground," Dave Cowley, Aerial Survey projects manager at (RCAHMS). "Warren Field stands out as something special, however. It is remarkable to think that our aerial survey may have helped to find the place where time itself was invented."
Dr Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews said this finding provides exciting new evidence for the earlier Mesolithic in Scotland. He said it demonstrates the sophistication of these early societies and reveals that 10,000 years ago hunter-gatherers constructed monuments that helped them track time.
"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 Field was constructed," Bates added.
The archaeologists said the discovery enriches their understanding of the ancient communities' relationship with time and the heavens.
"For pre-historic hunter-gatherer communities, knowing what food resources were available at different times of the year was crucial to survival," said Dr Christopher Gaffney, of the University of Bradford. "These communities relied on hunting migrating animals and the consequences of missing these events were potential starvation. They needed to carefully note the seasons to be prepared for when that food resource passed through, so from this perspective, our interpretation of this site as a seasonal calendar makes sense."