Prehistoric cave art reveals ancient use of complex astronomy

Posted: December 3, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, History, research

Image credit: howstuffworks.com


The ancients may even have recorded the supposed ‘Younger Dryas’ comet strike.

Some of the world’s oldest cave paintings have revealed how ancient people had relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy, says Phys.org.

The artworks, at sites across Europe, are not simply depictions of wild animals, as was previously thought. Instead, the animal symbols represent star constellations in the night sky, and are used to represent dates and mark events such as comet strikes, analysis suggests.

They reveal that, perhaps as far back as 40,000 years ago, humans kept track of time using knowledge of how the position of the stars slowly changes over thousands of years.

The findings suggest that ancient people understood an effect caused by the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis. Discovery of this phenomenon, called precession of the equinoxes, was previously credited to the ancient Greeks.

Around the time that Neanderthals became extinct, and perhaps before mankind settled in Western Europe, people could define dates to within 250 years, the study shows.

The findings indicate that the astronomical insights of ancient people were far greater than previously believed. Their knowledge may have aided navigation of the open seas, with implications for our understanding of prehistoric human migration.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Kent studied details of Palaeolithic and Neolithic art featuring animal symbols at sites in Turkey, Spain, France and Germany.

They found all the sites used the same method of date-keeping based on sophisticated astronomy, even though the art was separated in time by tens of thousands of years.

Researchers clarified earlier findings from a study of stone carvings at one of these sites—Gobekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey—which is interpreted as a memorial to a devastating comet strike around 11,000 BC. This strike was thought to have initiated a mini ice-age known as the Younger Dryas period.

They also decoded what is probably the best known ancient artwork—the Lascaux Shaft Scene in France. The work, which features a dying man and several animals, may commemorate another comet strike around 15,200 BC, researchers suggest.

The team confirmed their findings by comparing the age of many examples of cave art—known from chemically dating the paints used—with the positions of stars in ancient times as predicted by sophisticated software.

Continued here.

Comments
  1. Bloke down the pub says:

    I suppose astronomy was so popular back then because there wasn’t much on the telly.

  2. tom0mason says:

    The prehistoric astronomy app led to the calendar app which eventually led to …

  3. Mark Breckenridge says:

    Seriously.. watch this excellent video.

  4. JB says:

    Its not clear what is new in this study, nor what they are clarifying. The Lion-man statue harks to the age of Leo, and Zep-Tepi of the Gods with the founding of the Osiris kingdom.

    Perhaps there are updates from the work of Wolkiewiez et al?

    Thomas Brophy in his book, The Origin Map, also dated the Nabta Playa stone calendar to 31,330 BC (22.5º obliquity), but he did not account for any axial tilt at the time of the catastrophism during the Gobekli-Tepi period.

  5. Gamecock says:

    I doubt there is any more wisdom in ancient graffiti than in current graffiti.

  6. stpaulchuck says:

    are those animal paintings truly astronomical pictographs, or is it just confirmation bias making it seem so?

  7. oldbrew says:

    Decoding European Palaeolithic art: Extremely ancient knowledge of precession of the equinoxes

    Martin B. Sweatman, Alistair Coombs
    (Submitted on 31 May 2018)

    A consistent interpretation is provided for Neolithic Gobekli Tepe and Catalhoyuk as well as European Palaeolithic cave art. It appears they all display the same method for recording dates based on precession of the equinoxes, with animal symbols representing an ancient zodiac. The same constellations are used today in the West, although some of the zodiacal symbols are different. In particular, the Shaft Scene at Lascaux is found to have a similar meaning to the Vulture Stone at Gobekli Tepe. Both can be viewed as memorials of catastrophic encounters with the Taurid meteor stream, consistent with Clube and Napier’s theory of coherent catastrophism. The date of the likely comet strike recorded at Lascaux is 15,150 BC to within 200 years, corresponding closely to the onset of a climate event recorded in a Greenland ice core. A survey of radiocarbon dates from Chauvet and other Palaeolithic caves is consistent with this zodiacal interpretation, with a very high level of statistical significance. Finally, the Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel, circa 38,000 BC, is also consistent with this interpretation, indicating this knowledge is extremely ancient and was widespread. [bold added]

    Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)
    Cite as: arXiv:1806.00046 [physics.hist-ph]
    (or arXiv:1806.00046v1 [physics.hist-ph] for this version)
    – – –
    11 Ancient Structures Used to Mark Autumnal Equinox (That You Can Visit!)
    https://www.onetravel.com/going-places/11-ancient-structures-used-to-mark-autumnal-equinox-that-you-can-visit/

  8. ivan says:

    If Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory is to be believed then I suspect that ancient man knew much more about the earth than any modern climate scientists. I imagine that if one of ancients stepped through a time warp into today he would be physically stronger and fitter than any man of today and would be able to fit into modern society with very little coaching.

    Since only the fittest with the ability to think survived, after all they had to compete with large, fast animals for food, look after themselves and their families, I think that much of the cave art were used as teaching tools for the children. A cave is an ideal place to put something you want preserved provided an animal didn’t take up residence.

    Where did the know how to build the Antikythera mechanism come from if not prior knowledge of astronomical events?

  9. oldbrew says:

    The Babylonians knew a bit about astronomy…

    Babylonian astronomy was the study or recording of celestial objects during early history Mesopotamia. These records can be found on Sumerian clay tablets, inscribed in cuneiform, dated approximately to 3500–3200 BC
    . . .
    During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers developed a new empirical approach to astronomy.
    . . .
    The origins of Western astronomy can be found in Mesopotamia, and all Western efforts in the exact sciences are descendants in direct line from the work of the late Babylonian astronomers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_astronomy

  10. Re Pyramids look at this article https://cementafriend.wordpress.com/2014/05/ . The Kefu statue was made from poured geopolymer material. The Egyptians did not have tools to carve granite but had the knowledge how to make granite. Experiments have been made to show how the Egyptians did it. See https://www.geopolymer.org/ . For the pyramids materials have been chemically analysed with XRF and XRD to seek the origin. The analysis shows the blocks of the pyramids were made from soft limestone in a nearby wadi. The limestone was like the aggregate in concrete with a geopolymer binder acting similar to cement in concrete.
    It is difficult for civil engineers and architects to understand chemical engineering processes when they have no knowledge of chemistry.
    In Turkey there is a site where excavations have brought to light polished concrete floors in buildings dated to around 7000BC. The base of the floor used a concrete mix with limestone aggregate and a lime slurry. Most likely fires where lit to create CO2 which was then absorbed by the lime (CaO + CO2 = CaCO3) which then hardened and could be polished. The strength of made limestone was found to be as high as modern concrete (40 to 60 MPa) There have been similar findings in Israel. So it is likely the Egyptians learned of the technology and made their own improvements to discover geopolymers. The Egyptians also made artificial gypsum to look like marble.

  11. oldmanK says:

    This was too tempting:

    Quote oldbrew says: December 3, 2018 at 7:04 pm The link at the bottom has one structure Mnajdra Malta. Another version of it is here: https://melitamegalithic.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/first-blog-post/ with a free tour attached. How it is designed is here: https://melitamegalithic.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/mnajdra-south-calendar-design/

    Which leads to JB says: December 3, 2018 at 2:31 pm Question: How could they know the obliquity at 31,330BC ? I implore, seek the origins of that assumption (a backward extrapolation of a formula that does not hold true for even 3000 yrs.) Plus what it ignores; the possibility of transients/step changes.

    Quote: oldbrew says: December 3, 2018 at 10:26 pm quote “Babylonian astronomy was the study or recording of celestial objects during early history Mesopotamia. These records can be found on Sumerian clay tablets, inscribed in cuneiform, dated approximately to 3500–3200 BC”. The main authority on Mesopotamia was Thorkild Jacobsen. He said in “Treasure of Darkness” that in the archaeology of Mesopotamia, the 4th millennium is conspicuous by its absence”. ???

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