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Science

Aboriginal Sundial Pre-Dates Stonehenge 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
brindafella writes "Look out, Stonehenge, here come the Wurdi Youang rocks in the Australian state of Victoria. The semi-circle of stones has been examined by an astrophysicist from Australia's premier research group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), who says this arrangement of rocks is a carefully aligned solar observatory that may be 10,000 years old. It would have been created by local Aborigines, the Wathaurong people, who have occupied the area for some 25,000 years."
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Aboriginal Sundial Pre-Dates Stonehenge

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  • by Cimexus (1355033) on Monday February 07, 2011 @06:17AM (#35124502)

    Well I agree it doesn't look like much, but then again it's 10,000 years old. That's much older than most other such remnants in the world. Either way, it's definitely not natural. Humans did this. The question is: for what purpose?

    If it does align perfectly on the with the sun on the solstices, then this becomes very interesting. The likelihood that humans happened to place the rocks on that exact alignment by pure chance (as opposed to any other random alignment) is small.

    If on the other hand the alignment isn't really very significant from a solar/stellar perspective it's probably just some ancient place marker or something instead. Still interesting, mind you, but nothing globally unique.

  • by TeXMaster (593524) on Monday February 07, 2011 @07:02AM (#35124680)

    Well I agree it doesn't look like much, but then again it's 10,000 years old. That's much older than most other such remnants in the world. Either way, it's definitely not natural. Humans did this. The question is: for what purpose?

    If it does align perfectly on the with the sun on the solstices, then this becomes very interesting. The likelihood that humans happened to place the rocks on that exact alignment by pure chance (as opposed to any other random alignment) is small.

    Was the alignment correct 10k years ago? Don't the precessions influence the relative position of the sun and Earth in a way that would be significant after 10k years, meaning that something on Earth aligned with a specific Sun position at a specific time of the year now would not be valid 10k years ago, and conversely?

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday February 07, 2011 @10:30AM (#35125818) Homepage Journal

    Only 10K? That's hardly 2/5s the time these folks have been local to the region. For them, this is a late, modern development. For European descendants it is an incredible antiquity.

    Interesting to think of these timelines, regarding common perception. Cleopatra lived and died closer in time to the era of Moon landings than she did to the building of the great pyramid at Giza.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday February 07, 2011 @10:44AM (#35125976) Journal

    TBH I don't understand what's so incredible. I mean, it's interesting as history information, but it's not like it's some great knowledge. Humans 10,000 years ago were already the modern humans, and probably just as smart as most people here.

    As I was saying in another post, there is a very simple way of marking where the sun sets for the solstices, because they're the extreme points left and right. Just moving a stone each evening until you found the rightmost point the sun sets, and a different stone for leftmost, will get you those two points pretty well. The third point is simply the middle of the segment, and something that you can measure even with your feet.

    The whole thing is perfectly within the range of things human could figure out 10,000 or even 100,000 years ago.

    They don't even have to understand such things as solstice or equinox. Pretty much you just need someone to figure out "hey, didn't the sun set behind the other bush some time ago?" And from there, if you're bored and have a year or two to look where it sets, you can mark pretty well how far north and how far south can the sun set.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Monday February 07, 2011 @11:37AM (#35126550)

    For what its worth, I saw a documentary on these rocks many a year ago. They attempted to move a rock using fx- fans, which basically created winds of a small hurricane. They were completely unable to move a single rock. Furthermore, such winds are completely undocumented for the region. Not to mention, most agree such winds, in moving the rock, would sandblast the trail, obliterating it.

    Realistically, these rocks are a scientific mystery. Some have suggested the rocks are in fact NOT moving and that its an illusion created by its tail. Along these lines, some scientist say we should be looking for alternate explanations of how the tail (the trail) is created rather than focusing on what appears to be moving rocks.

  • So they can tell when in the year they're at.

    That's very useful for planting and floods and whatnot. You can't figure out when to do stuff if you don't know when you are.

    The only other option is to just count days, and that's very hard, and even harder when you haven't invented useful numbers or place values yet. Back then, they'd have numbers from one to twenty or whatever, and that was essentially it. If they were lucky they could count moons, but the moons do not divide evenly into the year so that doesn't work well.

    But once they notice that shadows move back and forth, they can do what the GP said, stick up a pole and mark the summer and winter solstice with essential no work at all, and then mark 10 rocks across or something. And they could just look at it, and figure out that, despite it being cooler already, they shouldn't plant yet, it just got cooler early this year, and it's still 'five rocks' or whatever to solstice, and they're supposed to plant at four. (Or even put some sort of carved symbol at exactly the right place that means 'plant'.)

Computers are unreliable, but humans are even more unreliable. Any system which depends on human reliability is unreliable. -- Gilb

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