Astronomy Of Ancient Cave Art

We’ve all seen images of prehistoric cave art. What if I told you primitive cave drawings represent far more than animals? Ponder the possibility they depict astronomical observations.

A paper published on November 2, 2018 by researchers at Edinburgh and Kent Universities in the Athens Journal of History suggest animal symbols represent constellations and document ancient comet strikes.

The Shaft Scene in the Lascaux Caves in France. It’s one of the world’s most famous examples of ancient cave art, featuring a dying man and several animals. Researchers now say artwork might commemorate a comet strike around 15,200 BC. Image via Alistair Coombs.

Researchers carbon dated ancient cave paint, compared their findings with historical star charts and concluded cave paintings up to 40,000 years old represent astronomical awareness.

Pillar 43, Enclosure D, also known as the Vulture Stone of Göbekli Tepe. Image via Martin B. Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis. From

The researchers reinterpreted earlier findings from a study of stone carvings at one of these sites – Göbekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey – which is interpreted as a memorial to a devastating comet strike around 11,000 B.C. This strike was thought to have initiated a mini ice-age known as the Younger Dryas period.”

Until publication of this paper, history credited the Greeks with astronomical recognition of the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis, a certainty we call precession of the equinoxes, ( motion of equinoxes along the plan of Earth’s orbit ). New research tells a cosmic tale of an ancient humanity far more sophisticated than we thought possible, ancients who understood the gradual shift of Earth’s rotational axis. People who used this knowledge to track seasons, illustrate astronomical events and navigate intricacies of human migration. That’s worth pondering.


Gavrinis And Core No. 7

Gavrinis and Core No. 7 have more in common than 4,000 BC archeological mysteries – after five years and over 1,300 posts, Core No. 7 and Gavrinis rank first and second in search terms generating Notes traffic.

Core No. 7 – In 1881 British archeologist Flinders Petrie picked up a smooth rock near the pyramids at Giza, a seemingly impossible plug of granite construction debris. Science doesn’t know how, but think they know where No. 7 came from. A plug of red granite drilled to form a door pivot – not chiseled, drilled with precision accuracy. Drills leave markings behind – a road map of rate and pressure. This is when 4000 year old granite cores get freaky – the markings on Core No. 7 are so perfectly spaced, engineers don’t believe a modern diamond tip mechanized drill could duplicate them.

Click to access 1503.0182v1.pdf

Gavrinis – Worlds away from mysteries of Egypt, a tiny rock off the coast of Brittany in France harbours the wonder of Gavrinis.In 1835 French archeologists poked about a sunken burial chamber entrance on uninhabited Gavrinis, full excavation took place in the 1930s. Waiting inside, over 50 stone slabs, more than half adorned with intricate carvings resembling fingerprints. Mathematicians believe it a code of sorts. Computer analysis dropped a bombshell – patterns represent the number of days in a year, references to solstice and equinoxes, an exact longitude and latitude of the island, and the “mathematical constant Pi”.

ACHAMAN GUAÑOC: Cairn de Gavrinis

Feline Facts and Rocket Cats

Cats rule in North America – 30% of households purchase cat litter for an estimated 73 million felines, compared to 63 million puppy chow homes. A group of cats is called a clowder, the technical term for a cat’s hairball is bezoar. Apparently cats can make about 100 different sounds compared to 10 from a dog. Most female cats are right pawed, males favour their left. Approximately 40,000 people are bitten by cats in America each year. During that year, roughly 4 million felines are eaten in Asia. It would take 24 cat skins to make a coat. Cats sleep 2/3 of every day, a nine year old cat has only been conscious for 3 life years. There are an estimated 60 million feral cats in the U.S. In 1963 French cat Felicette, dubbed “Astrocat”, was the first cat in space.

Historically, evidence of the first domesticated cat comes from a 9,500 year old grave on the island of Cyprus where feline bones were unearthed beside human remains. Ancient Egypt worshiped cats, smuggling them out of Egypt was punishable by death. When a family cat died Egyptians would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows, followed by an elaborate funeral feast and placing mummified felines in the family tomb (complete with tiny mummified mice ). In 1888 over 300,000 mummified cats were discovered in an ancient cemetery – according to RandomHistory (linked below) they were “unwrapped” and sent abroad to be used as fertilizer by farmers in England and America. ( don’t despair – I agree this needs a fact check assignment ).

Christianity wasn’t kind to cats. During the Spanish Inquisition Pope Innocent VIII oversaw the incineration of countless evil felines ( really bad decision – bye, bye pest control, hello black death ). At the midsummer festival of St. John’s Day, towns across medieval Christian Europe gathered at bonfires to burn live cats. Associated with witchcraft and the devil, people shrieked with delight as bags of live cats roasted in flaming agony.

It’s possible “cat burning” inspired Franz Helm to detail rocket cats in a 1590 manual on siege warfare.

‘Create a small sack like a fire-arrow … if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place.

‘And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.'”

No evidence of rocket cat warfare exists other than Helm’s siege manual – history freely pardons the suggestion of incendiary felines. Other animals weren’t as fortunate. Check out the link below –

Thank Janus

On this first day of 2016, I find myself pondering why January 1 marks the beginning of a new year. As with so many traditions lacking astronomical substance or scientific reason, it starts to make sense when considering ancient history.

Ancient Rome celebrated a mid winter festival in honour of the god Janus. The god of “doorways and beginnings”, Janus had two faces – one looked to the future, the other to the past. Januarius was the first month of the Roman calendar, a time when citizens exchanged gifts of lamps to light the coming year.

The earliest record of new year celebrations comes from Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. Long before Roman Janus, Mesopotamian New Year fell in March with observance of the vernal equinox. Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians and Persians partied in September with the fall equinox. Ancient Greece favored winter solstice on December 20. It was a free for all until introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, since the 16th century January 1st has heralded the new year. That said, make no mistake about it – we can all thank Janus for our hangover.


Voynich Manuscript

History isn’t big on mystery. Absolute interpretation of events or symbolic meaning is deemed preferable to head scratching admissions of “your guess is as good as mine”.  Troublesome historic anomalies languish in hinterlands. Bordered by tendrils of skepticism, bereft of plausible explanation, history delegates mystery to the dusty ranks of hoax.

Such is the Voynich Manuscript. Carbon dated to the early 15th century, the Voynich Manuscript is written in a completely unknown language. Characterized by countless illustrations of plants, astronomy and female nude figures, the manuscript is divided into “sections” according to supposed subject matter. Based on illustrations, speculation’s best guess settled on Voynich as a medical guide of sorts.

Unknown before 1912, the year antique book dealer Wilfred M. Voynich found it among manuscripts at villa Mondragone near Rome, text defies translation. Scholars agree on very little, beyond an alphabetic script of 19 – 28 characters matching no known language, Voynich remains an enigma. Recent computer analysis only deepened the mystery, suggesting Voynich’s 235 pages contain more than one “language”.

Over the years, a document some consider the Middle Ages greatest hoax occasionally met assertions of explanation – from the website World Mysteries, linked following..

A first “solution” was announced in 1919, by William Romaine Newbold (Newbold, 1921), who caused a sensation by claiming that the manuscript did indeed contain the work of Roger Bacon and that Bacon had known the use of the compound telescope and microscope, seeing the spiral structure of the Andromeda galaxy* (!) only visible with modern telescopes and cell structures unknown in the 13th Century.

What Newbold discovered in the text was absolutely astonishing— enough to gather a lot of attention from the scientific community. The biological drawings in the text were described asseminiferous tubes, the microscopic cells with nuclei, and even spermatozoa. Among the astronomical drawings were the descriptions of spiral nebulae, a coronary eclipse, and the comet of 1273. One of the more baffling things about this was that many of the drawings of plants, and of the galaxies appeared to have been invented. There was no doubt that if Bacon were the author of such a text, he must have had some way of obtaining the information.

Followed by –

In 1944, Hugh O’Neill, a renowned botanist at the Catholic University, identified various plants depicted in the manuscript as New-World species, in particular an American sunflower and a red pepper (O’Neill, 1944). This meant that the dating of the manuscript should be placed after 1493, when Columbus brought the first sunflower seeds to Europe. However, the identification is not certain: the red pepper is coloured green and the sunflower identification is equally contested.

Other people involved in the study of the manuscript were prominent cryptologists such as W. Friedman and J. Tiltman, who independently arrived at the hypothesis that the manuscript was written in an artificial, constructed language. This was based on the structure of the “words” as described below. Such artificial languages were devised at least a century after the probable date of the Voynich manuscript. Only the ‘Lingua Ignota’ of Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179) predates the Voynich manuscript by several centuries, but this language does not exhibit the structure observed by Friedman and Tiltman, and it provides only nouns and a few adjectives.

Friedman came to know Petersen who at some time presented his hand transcription and other material to him. After Friedman’s death, all the material was moved to the W.F. Friedman collection of the Marshall Foundation. Recently, electronic versions of the transcriptions made by Friedman’s groups were produced from the typed sheets and made available on the Internet (Reeds, 1995).

Later acclaimed solutions see in the manuscript a simple substitution cipher which can only decode isolated words (Feely, 1943), the first use of a more or less sophisticated cipher (Strong, 1945; Brumbaugh, 1977), a text in a vowel-less Ukrainian (Stojko, 1978) or the only surviving document of the Cathar movement (Levitov, 1987). No acceptable plaintext has ever been produced though.

Whatever the Voynich Manuscript might be, any document that eludes translation for 500 years, deserves a ponder.

“Tiny naked women frolicking in bathtubs” – a fragment of page 70
Copyright: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Page 70r  Image Source >>

Ushtogaysky Square

Every so often I’m asked about my fascination with ancient history. Polite restraint tempers inclination towards uncontrollable blithering. Reeling myself in, I take a moment to assess context, social parameters, familiarity and seriousness of my inquisitor. Are they truly interested, or halfheartedly making conversation? Who cares, either way I have an answer. “It began with the Nazca Lines”, if that doesn’t fall like a lead balloon – hang on because here I come.

Ancient astronomical feats – monolith alignment, mathematical calculations, capacity to precisely chart the passage of time, have tickled fancies for centuries. The ancients had plenty of free time to observe the cosmos, unfettered by light pollution or preconceived notions of this or that. One thing for sure – we couldn’t duplicate their accomplishments without modern technology. If that wasn’t mind blowing enough, ancient civilizations created monuments to be appreciated from high above – undertakings like Nazca and the Steppe Geoglyphs.

In 2007 Dmitriy Dey, an economist and archaeology buff from Kazakhstan spotted something remarkable while viewing Google Earth. Dey’s idle interest in finding Khazakh pyramids led to discovery of the Steppe Geoglyphs. Ponder meticulously placed earth mounds – squares, rings, crosses and lines estimated to be 8,000 years old. Precise geometric figures, imperceptible unless seen from above. Massive earthworks larger than the Great Pyramid at Cheops, hundreds of mounds no taller than a few feet strung together to create geometric designs only visible from space.

Splutters of “Oh, there must be some explanation” bounce off chimes of “is this one of those alien conspiracies” and “where did you read this”. Occasionally someone clicks with a genuine “holy crap”.

Take a moment to ponder – what was the population 8000 years ago in Kazakhstan? How many, and how long would it take Neolithic hunter/gatherers void of written language, the wheel, or anything other than stone tools to construct such a monument? Who did they think would see it?

Goosebumps prickle my arms – for 8,000 years not a soul noticed the Steppe Geoglyphs. It was all about Nazca until 2007, the year an amateur archaeologist using Google Earth tripped on ancient anomalies perplexing enough to kick history’s ass.

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA


Happy Pi Day

The circumference of a circle, regardless of size is 3.14 times longer than the diameter (distance across). Circumference divided by diameter is a mathematical constant known as Pi. By definition Pi is a mathematical constant because it isn’t changed by the size of numbers it’s used to equate. Pi is irrational, meaning it has an infinite number of digits which never repeat. In 2018 physicist Peter Trueb calculated Pi to 22.4 trillion digits – 22,459,157,718,361 to be precise. Limitless as Pi may be, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory requires a mere 15 Pi digits to calculate interplanetary travel, mathematician James Grime argues 39 digits is enough to calculate circumference of the known universe. In 1988 physicist Larry Shaw organized the first Pi Day at San Francisco’s Exploratorium science museum on 3.14. In 2009 U.S. Congress officially recognized the fourteenth day of the third month as Pi Day.

Antiquity was no stranger to Pi, ancient Egypt and Babylon calculated approximations of Pi between 1900-1600 BC. In 250 BC Greek mathematician Archimedes is credited with the first algorithm calculating Pi as 3.14. Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi (429-501) calculated Pi to 6 decimal places.

March 14 ignites ponders of my Pi soft spot. Gavrinis, a Neolithic site inhabited between 5000-3500 BC on a tiny island off the Brittany coast of France. In the 1930’s French archeologists discovered a burial chamber on Gavrinis containing stone slabs with intricate carvings resembling fingerprints. Mathematicians saw it as indecipherable code, modern computer analysis blew our minds – Gavrinis code indicates the exact number of days in a year, reference to solstice and equinoxes, precise longitude/ latitude of the island, and the “mathematical constant Pi.

Happy Pi Day.

Great Dam of Marib

Ancient history is tricky – a mine field of contradiction, biblical references, conspiracy and myth. History, easily misinterpreted or recorded with bias of the author, can’t always be trusted. Interpretation, often subjective, must be approached cautiously. Archeology, at least in terms of physical evidence is irrefutable. Over the years I’ve come to accept archeological evidence as the place to embrace wonders of our past.

The Sabaeans inhabited present day Yemen from roughly 1200 BC to 275 AD. For the sake of argument lets accept that approximation and move on. Biblical references to “Saba” or the Queen of Sheba – Old Testament ruler of the Sabaean people, hold little interest in this ponder. Mind bending feats of engineering magnificence obliterate dusty religious debate. Ponder the Great Dam of Marib.

Try to imagine a parched and dusty empire 750 BC. So many mouths to feed – so little water. Hey, lets build a dam. We’ll need to make it 2000 feet across, control the flow of water with canals, spillways and sluices, make certain it’s watertight, and proceed without concrete. No problem – we’ll just pack all this earth where we want it, and channel water as needed. The dam stood for 1000 years before a breach estimated at 600 AD returned Yemen to the desert.

Remnants of the Marib Dam
We see ourselves as superior, sophisticated, technologically advanced specimens of a highly evolved civilization. Imagine the sophistication required to build the Dam at Marib.
Archeological evidence eclipses written history, forcing us to think in practical terms. We rub our eyes in disbelief, blink a few times, look again, it’s still there – stoically daring us to grasp the enormity of ancient tenacity, ingenuity and above all – the will to move the earth, if it meant a better world.

Pondering History

Modern society places itself in an ivory tower – dominant, untouchable, and permanent. Six thousand years ago, ancient civilizations saw themselves the same way. Regardless of pinholes along historical timelines – each and every one considered their culture as one to endure for all eternity.

Every lesson we need is represented in history. Exploitation of resources, failure to recognize weather patterns, deforestation, overly ambitious conquests, superior weaponry, religious squabbles, greed, genocide, holy wars, enslavement, ramifications of technology – history screams “pay attention”. Modern man has little time for dusty old history – we see ourselves as superior, untouchable and entitled to all the perks advanced technology lays at our feet.

None of us stops to think – we aren’t that special. History shows us civilizations come and go, shit happens – cataclysmic natural disaster, unforeseen drought, cosmic events, a myriad of reasons toppling civilization from that ivory tower.

Modern technology doesn’t exclude us from catastrophe. In what way is the modern world different from the world of ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, India, South America, or China?  If anyone believes our advancements differ from those throughout history – think again.



Core No. 7

It strikes me as appropriate – my 701st post not only contains No. 7, but resonates with ancient wonder that got me blogging in the first place.

No. 7 requires an open mind, suspension of belief, dismissal of dusty textbook historical timelines, willingness to resist alien conspiracy theories and a good dose of childlike wonder. To ponder No. 7, is to accept we know jack about the past. Clear your mind of rolled eyes, dismissive platitudes, tin foil hats, new age fruit cakes, divine intervention and crocks of shit.

In 1881 British archeologist Flinders Petrie found something remarkable near the great pyramids at Giza. He didn’t unearth great riches or open an undisturbed tomb. Petrie picked up a piece of granite – a 4000 year old chunk of construction debris. A treasure politely tucked away in the Petrie Museum of Egyptology in London, England – one that defies explanation, logic or reason.

Flinder Petrie’s chunk of granite – Core No. 7 – only makes sense if you accept the ancient world as capable beyond imagination. Granite is hard, it can only be cut with something harder – today we use diamond tipped drills. Murals show Egyptian workers cutting blocks of lime or sandstone with copper saws – this makes sense. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the softest – copper is a 3, so are marble, lime and sandstone. Granite is a 7, diamonds are 10.

Science doesn’t know how, but think they know where No. 7 came from. A plug of red granite drilled to form a door pivot – not chiseled, drilled with precision accuracy. Drills leave marks behind – a road map of rate and pressure. This is when 4000 year old granite cores get freaky – the markings on Core No. 7 are so perfectly spaced, engineers don’t believe a modern diamond tip mechanized drill could duplicate them.

Ponder Core No. 7 a moment – forget plausible explanations, suspend belief and allow lost knowledge to plaster a grin on your face.