Wednesday 20 September 2017

Oldest 'calendar' found in field

Vince Gaffney, professor of landscape archaeology at the University of Birmingham, in Warren Field, Crathes, Aberdeenshire (John James/PA)
Vince Gaffney, professor of landscape archaeology at the University of Birmingham, in Warren Field, Crathes, Aberdeenshire (John James/PA)
Artist's impression issued by the University of Birmingham of the lunar calendar 'pits' at Warren Field about 8,000 BC, in Crathes, Aberdeenshire

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest "calendar" in a field in Scotland.

New analysis of a group of 12 pits excavated in Aberdeenshire shows they appear to mimic the phases of the moon to track lunar months over the course of a year.

Until now the first formal time-measuring devices were thought to have been created in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago.

But 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 2004-06 and recently analysed by a team led by the University of Birmingham.

They found the monument also aligns on 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.

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.

"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. The research was published in the journal Internet Archaeology.

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