Friday, 17 January 2014

Some of Last year’s projects - The Beginning of Time?

The Begging of Time 
Last summer, just about the time that the midges come out in full force a team of archaeologists and geophysicists from the Universities of Birmingham, St Andrews and Bradford got together in a field in Aberdeenshire near Crathes Castle.  The outing was prompted by the keen-eyed and insightful thinking of Prof Vince Gaffney who had spotted a curious arrangement of Mesolithic pits form air photos and a previous archaeological site report.  

Air photo and site investigation of sinuous pit alignment
The alignment was unlike most other early monuments in the UK where obvious orientations align with solar and lunar events.  This new site showed a sinuous arrangement to the pits.  While most of us would see no significance in this, Vince’s curiosity was piqued and his brain went into overdrive.  The end result, a geophysical survey, a new interpretation and the theory presented that at 10,000yrs old the feature could be the world’s oldest calendar!

The geophysics: This included electromagnetics, (Geonics EM31 and EM38), magnetics (Foerster Mag) electrical (Geoscan) and ground penetrating radar (PulseEkko).

The end result was modeled to examine what the exact solar and lunar tracts would have looked like 10,000yrs ago.  This showed the site mimics the phases of the moon in order to track lunar months over the course of the year. But that is not all, it also contains elements for alignment with the midwinter sunrise thus providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the moon, the asynchronous solar year and the associated seasons.  Pretty smart of those old Scots running around the glens hunting the deer and fishing for the salmon!

For more information see Time and a Place: A luni-solar ‘time reckoner’ from 8th millennium BC Scotland. Internet Archaeology, July 15 2013 (

Inphase results using EM31 (high resolution over site, lower for rest of field)

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