Mesolithic calendar found in Scotland

Archaeologists have discovered a 10,000 year-old lunar calendar made from specially-formed pits which track the moon’s cycle

The site in Aberdeenshire is believed to be the world’s oldest calendar. It is made up of a series of 12 large pits specifically shaped and designed to mimic the phases of the moon.

The latest remote-sensing technology shows that the arc of pits is aligned with the path of the rising sun on midwinter solstice some 10,000 years ago. Scientists have revealed that the locals would maintain and reshape the pits to keep in sync with the solar calendar. This evidence of periodic calibration allows greater insight into Mesolithic Britain and, in particular, the habits and customs of its hunter-gatherers.

“Positioning their calendar in the landscape the way they did would have allowed the people who built it to ‘recalibrate’ the lunar months every winter to bring their calendar in line with the solar year,” said Vincent Gaffney, professor of landscape archaeology at Birmingham University, who led the team that analysed the pits and revealed their purpose.

“What we are looking at here is a very important step in humanity’s earliest formal construction of time, even the start of history itself,” he added.

Although the pits were first discovered in 2004 via aerial photography, their real significance has only just been realised. Richard Bates, a geophysicist from St Andrews University who worked on the project, said: “It shows that Stone Age society was far more sophisticated than we have previously believed, particularly up north, which until lately has been kind of a blank page for us.

“This shows us that the people up here had the means and the need to be able to track time across the years and the seasons, and the knowledge that they would need to correct their lunar calendar with the solar year,” said Bates. “It is an important step in the history of time.”

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