Saturday, March 26, 2005

Kernave Lithuania

The Kernave Cultural Reserve in Lithuania is a region along the banks of the Neris River north of Vilnius which features man-made mounds. Kernave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See the following article about Kernave, Lithuania from the Baltic Times.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Astronomical Axe of Lamao Village, Qinghai, China

We have previously identified astronomical figures on axes, as at the Brimble Pit Swallet in Somerset, England, or axe figures as stars, e.g. Gro├čenrode in Germany. Stonehenge sarsens also have axe figures on them.

As now reported on March 12, 2005, at the Xinhua news website, Chinese archaeologists have found and correctly identified an axehead from Lamao Village, Qinghai, China, as being astronomical and have dated it to ca. 3000 BC.

According to the news report:

"Liu Baoshan, head of the Qinghai Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, said seven holes on the stone knife clearly form the Big Dipper and another three holes form [stars at] Altair."

Congratulations, men of China, on the identification of Ursa Major.

However, we think that the identification of Altair in Aquila is wrong. Our corrected decipherment of the axe is found below, adding some newly identified astronomical features of the axe:

We have made the above appropriate corrections based upon our long experience with these matters.

We have newly identified Ursa Minor for the cupmarks in the center, between the Ecliptic and Celestial Poles (the holes in the axe), as the ancients regarded the three bright stars of Ursa Minor (Kochab, Pherkad and Polaris) as well as the star HIP47193 (to the left of Polaris) to be important. Polaris is marked as the alpha-star in Ursa Minor above.

To the right of Ursa Minor we find Cygnus, where only the front four stars are used, together with Lyra and the star Vega. This corresponds to ancient Chinese practice, for as noted by Richard Hinckley Allen in Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (Dover, New York, 1963), Tien Tsin was the name of a heavenly city, a name "generally ... given to the group of four stars alpha, beta [epsilon ?], gamma and delta". We might add that these cupmarks could just represent the stars of Cygnus alone, but for that they would have to be turned quite a bit and the angles look not quite right then.

The two large holes in the axe mark from left to right the North Ecliptic Pole (immovable center of heaven) and the North Celestial Pole (Pole Star position, movable by precession, which rotates around the Ecliptic Pole).

The double headed-axe is similar to the Roman double-faced Janus or the Minoan double axe, both marking the solstice.

By the position of the holes with respect to Ursa Major the axe can be dated to ca. 3000 BC.

Hat Tip to Stone Pages

and to
Coast to Coast with Goerge Noory

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Ancient Astronomy - March 1476 BC - Senenmut Zodiac

In March, 1476 BC (-1475 by astronomy), the sky, depicted on the Senenmut Zodiac, looked like this around the Vernal Equinox, according to Starry Night Pro:

This graphic applies to the previous posting.

The Ancient Pharaonic Zodiac of Senenmut

The tomb of Senenmut (also written Senmut, both are wrong as we show in the next posting) located as Tomb TT353 at Del el-Bahri, Egypt, has what is regarded to be the world's oldest Zodiac inscribed on its ceiling. For a full picture in color see the website of Dr. Karl H. Leser.

We have been able to decipher this Pharaonic Zodiac in some of its essentials and present that decipherment here.

Partial Decipherment - Zodiac of Senenmut

Leser writes as follows, citing to Peter F. Dorman, an expert on Senenmut, along the way:

"Above, the astronomical ceiling from Chamber A, TT353; it is the oldest astronomical presentation known - the next one was found in the tomb of Sethi I. - and naturally, it is the only one in a private tomb (from Dorman, 1991). The astronomical ceiling measures approx. 3x3.6 m at its greatest dimensions.

The ceiling of Chamber A is divided into two sections representing the northern and the southern skies. The southern - upper part shown in the picture above - is decorated with a list of decanal stars, as well as constellations of the southern sky belonging to it like Orion and Sothis (Sopdet). Furthermore, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus are shown and associated deities who are traveling in small boats over the sky. Thus, the southern ceiling marks the hours of the night.

The northern - lower part - shows constellations of the northern sky with the large bear in the center. The other constellations could not be identified. On the right and left of it there are 8 or 4 circles shown and below them several deities each carrying a sun disk towards the center of the picture. The inscriptions associated with the circles mark the original monthly celebrations in the lunar calendar, whereas the deities mark the original days of the lunar month (after Meyer, 1982).

The astronomical ceiling is divided along its east-west axis by a text band composed of five registers. The central line which is wider than the other four registers bears together the titles of Hatshepsut and some titles as well as the name of Senenmut....."

In the Zodiac of Senenmut we see in the middle of the starry ceiling, about 3/4 of the way own, a figure with a spear, which we interpret as Orion, downing the bull, Taurus, just as in the similar theme at Minoan Knossos, on Crete (see the previous postings on this blog).

Moreover, we can easily identify the two large middle vertical lines - which join at the tail of the Bull and at the head of Cetus at Menkar, here a young woman - as marking the line of the Equinoxes.

Given that knowledge, which places the Zodiac of Senenmut at ca. 1500-1400 BC, we can in fact date the starry ceiling to March, 1476 BC when the four depicted planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus) all joined in superconjunction with the Sun at the point of the Vernal Equinox.

The upper graphic is used pursuant to the fair use exception to the copyright laws and is reduced in size from the original graphic found at the website of Dr. Karl H. Leser.

The lower graphic was made by Andis Kaulins using the above graphic as a model. The decipherment of the lower drawing and the setting of the date of Senenmut's heaven to March 1476 BC was made by Andis Kaulins on March 11, 2005.

The above decipherment meshes fairly well with a decipherment made by Andis Kaulins in June of 2001, interpreting similarly the similar Zodiac found in the Tomb of Sethos (who is actually King David).

Decipherment - Zodiac of Sothis

In the next posting we examine the identity of Senenmut and make a rather spectacular correction.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Knossos Archaeoastronomy - The Ivory Cup of Katsambas

The picture in the graphic shown below was scanned from "Das antike Kreta" (Ancient Crete), with photography copyright by Leonard von Matt (reproduced here as "fair use"), text by Stylianos Alexiou, Nikolaos Platon and Hanni Guanella, Echter-Verlag, W├╝rzburg, 1967.

The photograph is found on page 95 and is decribed at page 93 as being an ivory cup from a necropolis near Katsambas (Katsaba, in antiquity Kairatos, the ancient port of Knossos on Crete). The above scan and drawing was made by Andis Kaulins, and we think that it supports the interpretation of the Knossos "Bull and Gymnast Fresco" by William Glyn-Jones with the bull marking Taurus, and the gymnast representing Perseus. Here, however, the man with the spear more likely marks Orion, as also found at the tomb of Senenmut (sometimes written Senmut) in Egypt ca. 1470 BC. The bird above in the graphic marks Horus, as on the Zodiac of Denderah, Egypt (now found in the Louvre). There is also a bird found in the same position on the similar Minoan cylinder seal referred to by Glyn-Jones in the previous posting.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Constellation Art of Knossos - by William Glyn-Jones

The Constellation Art of Knossos
by William Glyn-Jones

It is not doubted that sacred geometry was used in the Renaissance as part of the structure of compositions to imbue art with a transcendent harmony, as outlined in the Platonic and Hermetic philosophies of old, and that this same idea was used to give the classical architecture of antiquity its sense of light, harmony and beauty. The Platonic philosophy says that forms which are universal, intelligible and eternal partake of the essence of beauty from a realm of ideas that has objective existence. The fact that intelligibility, universality and antiquity should facilitate this suggests that this philosophy is speaking of more than simply a pleasing effect due to symmetry and balance. The more universal and intelligible a form or idea, the more mental resonance will occur, if there is such a realm of ideas. The closest modern scientific theory is Morphic Resonance and indeed it says the same things. It suggests that anomalies in the learning patterns of both animals and humans are due to a morphic resonance, a resonance between things of like form, be they the ideas or the creatures doing the thinking or behaving. The older the form, then, the richer the accumulation of morphic fields around it…and a deeper sense of its beauty in the perceiver? This would certainly accord with the experience people have when finding themselves before such treasures of antiquity as the acropolis or the pyramids.

Whether or not we choose to accept this, it is certainly the case that if it is true, then logically there are certain other kinds of forms which should have a similar effect to those that are geometric, and which we might thus expect to have been similarly treasured by artists adhering to the hermetic philosophy. A particularly interesting example is that of constellation patterns. They are very, very old, very slow to change, and they are effectively universal in human terms, in that the same patterns are seen in the sky across a wide range of geography. The shape of Orion for example is the same for onlookers in the northern hemisphere as it is for the people in Australia or South America.

The hermetic artist would be interested not only in the pattern itself, but also in the mythological figure projected onto that pattern, for it is the collective thought-form that they are aiming to create a resonance with, so that their art appears ancient in beauty, redolent with a timeless ancestral imprint – the Dreamtime.

It is for each individual appreciator of such art to decide whether or not they adhere to this philosophy themselves. It certainly does not appear to be impossible when looked at in terms of some scientific studies that claim to be empirical, for example those that have been written of in books like The Presence of the Past by Rupert Sheldrake. But more than that I will not say on the question of the validation of the philosophy itself. The topic here is that of whether the artists of a particular place and time – Minoan Knossos – were adherents of this type of philosophy and exponents of this type of art, and I am talking here specifically about the use [of]constellation imagery rather than the geometric type. This will bring us closer to the intentions of those artists – whether you want to call this intimacy ‘resonance’, or call it ‘insight’ and leave it at that. In which camp do I place myself? I think you can probably guess.

The Bull Leaper Fresco

The first image we will look at here is perhaps the most famous of the Knossos frescoes, that of the Bull Leaper. An exciting theme, beautifully portrayed, but is there more to it than has been realized? For me it has always been not just beautiful but exquisitely so.

These images below show how well the constellation of Perseus matches the image of the bull leaper in mid flight, his hands on the shoulder of the bull. Except, in the Knossos fresco his hands are not on the bull’s shoulder, but further along his back. A possible reason for this will be given below.


In the sky, the constellation of Perseus is located over the shoulder of Taurus the Bull. For this reason, it seems highly likely to me that this is the subject of the Bull Leaper fresco. In other depictions of the same scene, the bull leaper is shown more over the horns themselves, closer to the actual position of Perseus over Taurus. An example is this image from a cylinder seal at Knossos.

This cylinder seal shows two other figures off to the left. Their chief characteristic is that their poses match each other perfectly, they are in this respect twins. They are also in the location relative to Taurus of Gemini, the Twins constellation, so I suggest that this is exactly who there are, and that we appear to have here the depiction of some archaic Minoan sky myth regarding a great hunt of a wild bull in which the Twins (Castor and Pollux?) played some heroic part. We can probably come close to it by picturing something along the lines of the Greek myth of the hunt of the wild boar, which has a Celtic equivalent.

As such this image adds some more weight to the hypothesis – that the bull is Taurus and the leaper is Perseus. But best of all is the way that Perseus moves across the sky. When he is due South at the meridian he is in the position depicted in the Knossos fresco, that is to say heels over head, upside down, mid somersault. In fact Perseus actually performs the leap over the course of the night, moving from the East to the West and flipping over when crossing the meridian. This really does give us a deep insight, surely, into the way that Perseus was viewed by the Minoans.

In terms of the drama played out in the starry sky, a feature of the animation that is somewhat at odds with this is that of course while the leaper leaps, the bull retreats, and if this was the end of the matter we could not really say that the leap has been completed. However, as we have said the flip occurs when Perseus is due South, and south of the palace of Knossos containing the bull leaper fresco is a mountain – Mount Iuctas [also spelled Juktas or Jouchtas] - which is believed to have been viewed by the Minoans as totemic bull mountain. The reason for this is that the southern view from the palace to was framed through a pair of ‘sacral bulls horns’, and some have suggested that the slightly cleft peak of the mountain may have suggested horns. A tradition has come down in which the mountain is sacred to Zeus, who was originally a Cretan bull god, as seen for example in the Europa myth.

Therefore the bull is fixed to the South (as a landscape feature) while the leaper in the sky completes the leap over it. And when we compare the shape of the mountain seen from Knossos with the shape of the shoulder of the bull in the Minoan bull leaper images the match up is very good. So rather than or possibly as well as the cleft peak / bull’s horns image, I suggest that it is almost definite that the Minoans saw Iuctas as the shoulder of the bull seen from the side.

However, from Knossos itself the mountain can only have been the bull in a figurative sense, because even back in the Minoan period the altitude of Perseus was much more than the inclination to the top of the mountain seen from the palace. In order to really observe Perseus actually placing hands on the shoulder of the bull, as it were, they would have had to processes South to the foot of the mountain so that the inclination was much steeper. This they may have done.

September 12, 1400 B.C., from the foot of Mount Iuctas, looking South during the night

Why then does the leaper have his hands further along the back of the bull in the Knossos fresco? The Cretans were accomplished seafarers, and one thing we can be certain of is that they had a good sense of the shape of their own land. Funnily enough, the shape of Crete is rather like the bull. Most notably there are the two promontories like horns on the northwest corner.

This may be a rather quirky addition, but given that the Cretans almost certainly did have a bull-totem Earth god, and given that they were expert sailors and would thus have had an understanding of the shape the island, I doubt that this would have gone unnoticed. Knossos, then, is located further back than the shoulder of the bull which I put forward as a possible explanation for why the leaper is in this position in the Knossos fresco.

The Knossos Zodiac

That then is the theory I am proposing concerning the Knossos Bull Leaper, but other frescoes and figurines have been found in the ruins of the palace, and it would appear from what we have discovered so far that it may be worth having a look at these to see whether a similar hermetic approach is evident, in other words are there other constellation images? It very quickly becomes apparent that the likelihood is very high indeed.

After all, these are images of a Serpent Bearer, a Cup-Bearer, Doves, a Throne surrounded by leonine creatures…

My suggestion then, of which I am pretty confident, is that the Cup-Bearer fresco is simply the Cup-Bearer constellation – Aquarius. The Serpent Bearer figurines are simply the Serpent Bearer constellation, The Blue Doves fresco simply depicts the Doves Constellation, i.e. the Pleiades cluster. ‘Pleiades’ = ‘The Doves’ and as such were they mythologized in Greek tradition.

. .

I would go further and suggest that there are other constellation pattern images that are not quite so immediately obvious. In Egypt Isis’ main totem is the throne or seat, and She is there the Mother Goddess. In Catal Huyuk in Anatolia there is an image of a very voluptuous Earth Mother figure in a seated posture, and the arm rests are wild cats, leopards perhaps. Back in Egypt again thrones are known with a similar imagery – lions flanking a throne as for example in the treasures of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The Mother house of Astrology is the 4th House, the house which corresponds to the Zodiac sign of Cancer. And when we look at the shape of this constellation we see that it is that of a chair. And if we look at this constellation in the sky we see that behind and below it is Leo, and behind and above it is Leo Minor. This is looking from the side, but were we to look at the scene from the front we would see the throne flanked by the two lions. And in Knossos in the throne room the seat is flanked by the eagle headed lions. These griffins are admittedly some of the less certain images of Arthur Evans’ reconstruction work, and they probably didn’t look like the ones there today. A griffin was found on one of the walls of the throne room, and if I understand correctly the ones that flank the throne were identified by their paws. We might say that this theory serves to validate this reconstruction to some extent.


Above: the throne room, and right the throne headdress of Isis

In Minoan and Mycenean art the labyrs or double axe is often shown in between bulls’ horns. There is in fact a
crossing point in the sky between the horns of the bull. It is the crossing of the Galactic Axis that runs along the Milky Way and the ecliptic, the path of the Sun, Moon and planets. The other crossing point of these two is near Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, which may explain instances where a figure similar to the serpent bearer figures is shown holding double axes.


Plato said the Master Craftsman Arche-Tektos placed two strips crosswise in the Platonic creation story, and the meaning of Daidalos is similar – The Skillful Craftsman. Daidalos was the designer of the Labyrinth, so does this hint at an older creation story where the Labyrinth was in fact the ecliptic – the Zodiac - with its two labyrs crossing points? This is of course rather more speculative.

But with the simple identification of these crossing points as the labyrs we have enough to now look at the position of these frescos and figurines in the plan of Knossos, and notice a rough Zodiac order, as shown here.

So it seems that the ‘palace’ of Knossos was an hermetic art gallery that functioned by (or, if you prefer, had the intention of) accessing the old Arcadian Dreamtime, the timeless ancestral imprint in the constellation patterns of the
sky, and in its relation to the local countryside it also grounded this vision into the landscape, creating a rich sense of place.

From the academic point of view the interesting thing about all this is that this is 1400 B.C., while these constellations are not officially recognized as appearing on the scene until 500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. This essay is therefore part of the growing strong evidence that a revision of that date and place is long overdue. Not only did they exist thousands of years earlier, but they were central to the Mediterranean culture.

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Archaeoastronomy at Knossos, Crete, in Greece - A New Significant Discovery by William Glyn-Jones

We are quite proud at the Ancient World Blog to announce and publish for the first time a major archaeoastronomical discovery by William Glyn-Jones: his astronomical interpretation of the famous fresco of the "Bull and the Bull-Leaping Gymnasts" at the Palace of Knossos, Crete, the largest of the Minoan Palaces, famed for its restoration by Sir Arthur Evans.

We believe that this discovery by William Glyn-Jones, as followed here by other discoveries about the ancient astronomy of Knossos, will ultimately greatly increase world interest in the already highly regarded and mysterious Minoan Culture of Greece.

Our next posting presents the initial article on this subject as submitted to us by William Glyn-Jones, and in subsequent postings we will present our e-mail correspondence with Glyn-Jones, which will result in our presentation of additional significant archaeoastronomical discoveries and observations arising out of that fruitful and interesting discourse.

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Sky Earth Native America 1:
American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
Volume 1, Edition 2, 266 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Sky Earth Native America 2:
    American Indian Rock Art Petroglyphs Pictographs
    Cave Paintings Earthworks & Mounds as Land Survey & Astronomy
    Volume 2, Edition 2, 262 pages, by Andis Kaulins.

  • Both volumes have the same cover except for the labels "Volume 1" viz. "Volume 2".
    The image on the cover was created using public domain space photos of Earth from NASA.


    Both book volumes contain the following basic book description:
    "Alice Cunningham Fletcher observed in her 1902 publication in the American Anthropologist
    that there is ample evidence that some ancient cultures in Native America, e.g. the Pawnee in Nebraska,
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    See Alice C. Fletcher, Star Cult Among the Pawnee--A Preliminary Report,
    American Anthropologist, 4, 730-736, 1902.
    Ralph N. Buckstaff wrote:
    "These Indians recognized the constellations as we do, also the important stars,
    drawing them according to their magnitude.
    The groups were placed with a great deal of thought and care and show long study.
    ... They were keen observers....
    The Pawnee Indians must have had a knowledge of astronomy comparable to that of the early white men."
    See Ralph N. Buckstaff, Stars and Constellations of a Pawnee Sky Map,
    American Anthropologist, Vol. 29, Nr. 2, April-June 1927, pp. 279-285, 1927.
    In our book, we take these observations one level further
    and show that megalithic sites and petroglyphic rock carving and pictographic rock art in Native America,
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    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
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    whose "rock stars" are the real stars of the heavens, "immortalized" by rock art petroglyphs, pictographs,
    cave paintings, earthworks and mounds of various kinds (stone, earth, shells) on our Earth.
    These landmarks were placed systematically in North America, Central America (Meso-America) and South America
    and can to a large degree be reconstructed as the Sky Earth of Native America."

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