Mysterious Slab in Russia May Be a Sundial
A strange chunk of rock discovered in Russia more than 20 years ago appears to be a combination sundial and moondial from the Bronze Age.
A strange slab of rock discovered in Russia more than 20 years ago appears to be a combination sundial and moondial from the Bronze Age, a new study finds.
The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises.
The sundial might be "evidence of attempts of ancient researchers to understand patterns of apparent motion of luminaries and the nature of time," study researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronomical Research Center at Southern Federal University in Russia told Live Science in an email. [See Images of the Bronze Age Sundial-Moondial]
Last year, Vodolazhskaya and her colleagues analyzed a different Bronze Age sundial, this one found in Ukraine, and discovered it to be a sophisticated instrument for measuring the hours. The work caught the eye of archaeologists in Rostov, Russia, who knew of a similar-looking artifact found in that area in 1991. That slab had been sitting in a museum in Rostov ever since its discovery, and had never been thoroughly studied.
The Rostov slab was found over the grave of a man of about 50, and dates back to the 12th century B.C., similar in age to the one found in Ukraine. Sundials from this era have also been discovered in ancient Egypt, including in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I.
By studying the geometry of the Rostov slab, Vodolazhskaya and her colleagues discovered that the carved circles, which are arranged in a pattern spanning about 0.9 feet (0.3 meters) in diameter, correspond with the sunrises at equinoxes (days of the year when night and day are equal in length) and solstices (days of the year when day or night are at their longest).
And the Bronze Age people who created the sundial weren't only interested in the sun. The circles that didn't correspond to solar movements were linked to lunar wanderings. Because of the angle of the moon's orbit, our lone satellite goes through an 18.6-year cycle. During this cycle, when it rises, its position shifts from southerly to northerly, and its movements across the sky are relatively high and low. The Rostov slab tracks these movements with circular carvings indicating the southernmost and northernmost moonrises of these "low" and "high" moons.
The slab was found at a Bronze Age Srubna or Srubnaya site, a culture which flourished on the steppes between the Ural Mountains and Ukraine's Dneiper River. The Srubna people may have used the sun/moondial to time their annual rituals or to organize their work lives. Or, Vodolazhskaya said, the artifact may be the work of Bronze Age scientists.
"One cannot exclude a purely research appointment of such instruments. ... In ancient times, people were just as inquisitive as modern physicists and astronomers," Vodolazhskaya said.
In combination with the Ukraine sundial and other Bronze Age artifacts, the find suggests that the people in the Northern Black Sea region were astronomically savvy, Vodolazhskaya said, with technology on par with what was seen in ancient Egypt around the same time. The new study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but is available on the prepublication website arXiv.org.
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Article originally appeared on LiveScience.
A combination sundial and moondial found near Rostov, Russia dates back to the Bronze Age, probably around the 12th century A.D. This artifact was found in 1991, marking the grave of a man in his 50s.
Israeli archeologists have unearthed an ancient Egyptian coffin complete with the skeleton of a man and several burial offerings. The 3,300-year-old cylindrical clay sarcophagus featured a rare anthropoidal lid -- a cover in the shape of a person. The lid showed a naturalistic impression of a man’s face, with stylized hair, ears and hands crossed over the chest -- all in the Egyptian style.
The coffin was found in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel during work to install a gas pipeline. It was part of a burial site dating to the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.)
The coffin contained the skeleton of an adult male buried with a bronze dagger, a bronze bowl, pottery and hammered pieces of bronze.
Next to the skeleton, the archaeologists found an Egyptian scarab seal encased in gold and affixed to a ring which bore the name of Pharaoh Seti I, who conquered the region in the 13th century BC. The scarab was used to seal documents and objects.
One of the most powerful kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Seti I was the father of Ramses II, who has been identified by some scholars as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. According to the archaeologists, the seal points to a strong Egyptian influence in the Land of Israel during the second millennium B.C.