Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Prehistoric Astronomy on the British Isles: Mapping Midheaven Stars at the Cove Stones of Avebury Henge

Mapping Midheaven Stars at the Cove Stones of Avebury Henge: A Decipherment by Andis Kaulins, Traben-Trarbach, 2020 to Commemorate the Passage of the two-tailed Comet NeoWise in 2020 A.D., which awakened a world-wide interest in Astronomy in the Era of the Coronavirus COVID-19

Click on the following image to obtain a larger original graphic.
Then match the outer perimeter shapes of the stones with the shapes
formed by bright stars in the Starry Night Pro map of Midheaven.

The North Ecliptic Pole is marked clearly by the roundish-shaped disk on Cove Stone I, corresponding to a small circle of stars at Omega Draconis, just below the label Draco on the map above.

The North Celestial Pole is marked on Cove Stone II at the star Thuban (Alpha Draconis), which appears to be the eye of the larger human profile represented by Cove Stone II, with other stars marked by cupmarks seen as small white circles on the stone.

Avebury-Web.co.uk writes:
"[T]he two cove stones contained within the remnants of the northern inner circle [of Avebury Henge] are amongst the largest and finest stones of the whole monument.
Constructed about 3000 BC the coves have been found to be the earliest of the components that form the henge.... [the] northern circle must have been fundamental to the function of the whole monument."

The prehistoric era had no written word and none of the mapping technology of modernity, so how did the ancients map the heavens in the prehistoric era? 

That is a fundamental question whose answer is essential to an understanding of the prehistoric origins of heaven-centered human belief systems ... systems that we have inherited in evolved form as our "heavenly" religions down to the present day. After all, believers in the gods of yore placed their gods in heaven, and adherents of modern faiths do the same.

If we LOOK carefully, Avebury may provide us with a better understanding of our distant common human past. Avebury Henge is not only the largest megalithic henge ("a prehistoric monument consisting of a circle of stone or wooden uprights") in the world, but it also marks an early stage of organized megalithic culture, characterized by large megalithic ("standing stone") circles and other constructions in Western Europe, particularly in the British Isles. Indeed, megalithic sites are regarded by some observers -- in our view quite correctly -- to be precursors of contemporary "church" structures. As written at Heavens Between the Winds, by Agnes Castle, edited by Rob Reisner, Bob Bayer, and Michael McDavies (2008):
"[S]tone circles proved to be the precursors of churches of modern civilization. For instance the National Church of Scotland is called a Kirk which is a Circle, and we note the term Circus, which is Latin meaning “a ring”, is linguistically related to the Greek word “Kirkos” which means a circular building, edifice or church."
So, forget modernity for now, and put your "primitive brain" to work for a few moments, as if it were 5000 years ago or more -- an era that is relevant still, in spite of the passage of millennia, as just shown to us in 2020 A.D. by the Great Comet Neowise, to whom the ancients probably would have attributed the coronavirus. Only when we understand that the present is an integral part of the past, and that the future is an inevitable product of the present, can we properly gain the attitude required to successfully reconstruct the history of humankind.

Imagine, now, that it is ca. 3000 B.C. and you are sitting around a campfire on an early twilight evening as the twinkling stars emerge to splendored visibility in the sky. You chat amiably with family, friends and neighbors and/or "clan", and you view the broad expanse of stars above you in the night's starry sky, wondering where you are and why. Someone asks: "What is it all about, Alfie."

Consider then, this: if ancient humankind did "map" the stars of the heavens in the megalithic era as part of their belief system and as a part of trying to understand their existence on Planet Earth -- a surveyor-type mapping which also had a practical significance in terms of human orientation and movement geographically on the ground -- ala "Follow the Drinking Gourd" -- how would such a mapping have been done? How could it have been done? And how would such a mapping have been "recorded" so that it could be used in the future?

Let us see if we can figure some of it out, by looking at a modern star map of "midheaven", modernly marked by the stellar constellation Draco, the Dragon, a human "arrangement" of the midheaven stars that traces back more than 2000 years ago to Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandria), his Almagest, and to Hipparchus, viewed by some as the discoverer of precession of the equinoxes.

Initially, for analytical reasons and because of marked environmental changes starting ca. 4250 B.C., we used a base construction date of 4320 B.C. for Avebury Henge. However, Avebury Henge is currently radiocarbon-dated by the archaeologists to ca. 3000 B.C., and that will most likely be right for the henge that we see now, based on what you read below. The Wikipedia informs us that:
"Aubrey Burl suggests dates of 3000 BC for the central cove, 2900 BC for the inner stone circle, 2600 BC for the outer circle and henge, and around 2400 BC for the avenues."
The central "Cove Stones" are of primal importance for understanding what Avebury Henge is all about -- astronomy, viz. a heaven-centered belief system. Did the Cove Stones initially focus on the stars of Midheaven, i.e. the stars at the North Ecliptic Pole, and also North Celestial Pole, an area of the sky which we currently identify as the constellation Draco? We hope to prove that here.

Via Starry Night Pro astronomy software, the images below present graphics of the stars of midheaven at Draco, for two different eras, in an area of sky that is marked by two "poles", the North Ecliptic Pole and the North Celestial Pole. Note the difference in the position of the North Celestial Pole between the first and second image, whereas the North Ecliptic Pole is fixed in the same position.

 The Stars of Midheaven ca. 4320 B.C.
 Click the graphic below to obtain the larger original size image

 The Stars of Midheaven ca. 3117 B.C.
 Click the graphic below to obtain the larger original size image

To repeat, the North Ecliptic Pole is fixed in its position in the sky, whereas the North Celestial Pole moves with time.

The traditional view is that the North Celestial Pole moves one degree every 72 years and sweeps a 360° circle in 25,920 years, measured against the background of the starry signs of the Zodiac, viz. 2160 years x 12. Those numbers are easily worked with, were used by the ancients, and that is why we prefer them.

The phenomenon of "pole movement" itself is called general precession viz. axial precession by astronomers and was historically called "precession of the Equinoxes" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, with a nice graphic image) the most familiar term to most academics. Precession was first arguably measured by Hipparchus (ca. 190 B.C. to 120 B.C.), but he surely relied for his knowledge in part on even older sources, though the question is then, which ones. 

For a nice visual explanation of precession see online the "down to earth" YouTube video by David Cochrane as also the presentation of Axial Precession by Sixty Symbols, who use the general precession period of 26,000 years. Some moderns put the value of Precession of the Equinoxes at 25,772 years based on some formulas with various assumptions that do not seem to be universally accepted. Hence, the actual long-term length of precession is today somewhat unclear officially, and we stick with the traditional value of 25,920 years.

Another issue in viewing how ancient stargazers viewed the heavens is that we moderns do not draw star groupings exactly the same way that our forebears did. The brightest stars of course likely remain pretty much as they always were, but in drawing up an asterism or stellar constellation, even the bright stars can be connected in numerous different ways. 

For example, if we take the stars at Midheaven, modern astronomy draws the tail of the Dragon so that the relatively brighter stars Esadich (Iota Draconis, magnitude 3.28) and Aldhibain (Eta Draconis, magnitude 2.71) each connect to the rather dim star Theta Draconis (magnitude 4.00) that is between them but somewhat to the side of them The ancients appear to have connected the two brighter stars directly in their perimeter stars without connecting Theta.

The question now arises as to whether ANY of the large stones at Avebury in the shape of their outlined perimeter stars (i.e. the "outer profile" of the stone) fit into the image formed by the stars of Draco. The answer has to be: ABSOLUTELY!

How about Avebury Cove Stone I ? and How about Avebury Cove Stone II?

Avebury-Web.co.uk writes:
"[T]he two cove stones contained within the remnants of the northern inner circle [of Avebury Henge] are amongst the largest and finest stones of the whole monument. Constructed about 3000 BC the coves have been found to be the earliest of the components that form the henge."
Avebury-Web.co.uk also alerts us to a photograph out of the past which shows that the Cove Stones have been "righted" recently, perhaps resulting in positional changes that no longer reflect their original orientation, which also is a phenomenon that applies to Alexander Keiller's restoration of Avebury megaliths in the 1930's, when that may already have occurred earlier.

The same thing applies to Cove Stone I, whose position is now about 180° turned from its original position, something suggested by our decipherments of the stars which these megaliths represent.

Stone "F" of the Cove Stones is now missing, apparently having been destroyed, but one can see from the photograph(s) that it represented the stars of Hercules. The nearby "sunken" Cove Stone likely represents Cepheus, as the extreme opposite position of the North Ecliptic Pole in its 26,000-year journey.
For the positions of the stones, I reference Thomas Melrose's Avebury: An Archaeological Map, which can be purchased for under ten pounds at Megalithic Maps online as well as at the Megalithic Portal at Megalithic.co.uk.

In any case, without further ado, here is our decipherment solution to the purpose of Cove Stones I and II, which by their outer perimeters reflect lines that can be drawn in the heavens at Midheaven to represent figures in the stars.

Cove Stone I marks the North Ecliptic Pole at the small circle of stars found at Omega Draconis (ω Draconis viz. 28 Draconis), magnitude 4.77, the brightest star near the actual North Ecliptic Pole, a position here identified and confirmed by the square of stars (HIP 86481, HIP 87237, HIP 87730, and HIP 86184) beneath the star circle at Omega Draconis and also carved on Cove Stone I.

The North Ecliptic Pole is prominently drawn on Cove Stone I as a roundish figure carved clearly, and easily visible to everyone, showing that the ancients used the small circle of stars at Omega Draconis as their heaven's center.

We mark heaven's poles similarly even today, e.g. marking Polaris as the North Celestial Pole Star, even though the pole is not exactly at the right position, but that position otherwise has no bright stars usable for the marking purpose.

Draco is shown as a serpent-like figure carved with its head at the lower left of Cove Stone I, the body extending rightwards to the lower right corner and then upwards to the right upper corner and then around to the left at the top. The perimeter shape (outer profile) of the entire Cove Stone I is the same as the outline shape of the group stars represented by the stone. Avebury Cove I was the first stone at the Avebury Cove that we deciphered, leading us to the subsequent decipherments. Cove II came second, not first, which in retrospect surprises us, because its perimeter shape at the top is so obvious in representing Draco's tail.

The broad outer face of Cove Stone II marks the stars of Draco located next to the stars represented by the broad outer face of Cove Stone I and also marks the North Celestial Pole near the left perimeter of the stone. The upper perimeter of stars so represented corresponds well to the manner in which the tail of Draco is still drawn today. 

More amazingly, when we take the main "outer" profile broad-sides (outer perimeters) and the main outer narrow-sides of Cove Stones I and II, and put them all together in one picture, this results in the figure of a woman to the left and a man to her right profiled in the stars, at the Center of Heaven, as follows:

And now you know.

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Sky Earth Native America

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,
    geographically located their villages according to patterns seen in stars of the heavens.
    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,
    together with mounds and earthworks, were made to represent territorial geographic landmarks
    placed according to the stars of the sky using the ready map of the starry sky
    in the hermetic tradition, "as above, so below".
    That mirror image of the heavens on terrestrial land is the "Sky Earth" of Native America,
    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."