Ancient African Astronomy

We’ve all heard that Stonehenge was a type of calendar or observatory that has been around longer than civilization. I did some digging to find other examples of ancient astronomy practices and I came across the following video:

Nabta Playa video source. More information.

This is an example of ancient people demonstrating an understanding of astronomy much before the first civilizations began. This structure, like Stonehenge has sight lines oriented toward the sunrise and set locations during a solstice. More interestingly, outlying monoliths marked the location or sight line where particular stars from the constellation Orion were to make their vernal equinox heliacal rising (where the star rises with the sun on the first day of spring). This is a very rare event for a particular star, and occurs once every 26,000 years and represents a restarting of the star’s precession timeline.

Even more interestingly, the distance of these monoliths from the central observers location accurately represents the true distance to each of these stars. This structure was created 6,000-8,000 years ago, and to fathom how these people could accurately know, measure, and represent these distances is absolutely mind-boggling.

2 thoughts on “Ancient African Astronomy

  1. Thanks for sharing this cool video! This blog really adds a deeper level to the historical astronomy that we learned about in chapter 3. My major is LHS (large history focus) so it is very interesting to see how astronomy has been viewed overtime and in different regions of the world. What I like most about the video is how it talks about how ancient peoples used precession of the equinoxes in their myths and legends. Really makes you think about how its always been a human desire to understand/ make sense of space and the universe.


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