The world's first astronomical site
June 21, 2020 12:07 PM   Subscribe

This is really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nothing worse than a monsoon sneaking up on you.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:27 PM on June 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ancient browsers must have been huge to view sites like this.
posted by otherchaz at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

How fascinating, especially in light of recent DNA results strongly suggesting that the builders of Stonhenge had dark skin and frizzy hair.

Grafton Elliot Smith has long been the Jesting Pilate of anthropological Passion Plays for his diffusionism, and even a slight reversal of that turn of the wheel of fortune would be highly amusing.
posted by jamjam at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Practically speaking, the megaliths would have also helped the people of Nabta Playa time the rainy season, which only became more important as the society developed over thousands of years. The summer solstice would have coincided with the arrival of the annual monsoons. So tracking the Sun’s location could have tipped them off to the coming wet season.

I'm pretty sure nobody in the world, not anywhere, hauled huge lumps of rock around to tell them when it was about to rain.

If you live in a non-urban society you're intimately aware of the changing seasons, particularly if you depend on natural light. It's not a sophisticated problem. Religious or cultural reasons yes, we do that ourselves and have throughout history, but you don't put in that sort of effort to predict monsoons - which are only loosely tied to the date of the solstice, anyway. If the site was used to mark astronomical events it was because of their official significance, not because they needed a ten thousand ton farmers' almanac.

Compare this with the (later) Egyptian Calendar, which used the heliacal rising of Sirius to mark the start of the Nile inundation. This wasn't the actual date of the inundation, which varied: it was the official start of the calendrical season with its consequences for rituals, taxes, and corvée labour; and its rising was effectively recorded in monuments, temples, and the way cities were laid out. Places like Nabta Playa and Stonehenge must have been similar civilisational investments. They were as expensive, in terms of human labour, as a cathedral; and imply a similar degree of cultural focus. We're cut off from direct knowledge of those societies and their myths, epics, priesthoods, and so forth, but only someone with a severely stunted imagination could look at them and see a glorified wristwatch.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

from what I take away is that these stones in place, after so long, indicate a rapid migration. To be in-place makes a point that the people that left had plans to return. I remember seeing the primary images and a slight doubt does occur upon first view.

nice post, timely with the eclipse.
posted by clavdivs at 7:31 PM on June 21, 2020

Astronomy and sorghum and millet!
posted by clew at 12:15 AM on June 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fascinating piece, depressing conclusion:

After their study was published in 1998, tourists located the stone circle by plucking the latitude and longitude from the research paper. Soon, visitors were defacing the megaliths and standing up nearby stones that changed the site’s alignment. “They ended up messing up the area, which had been pristine for 5,000 years,” Malville says. In response, the government eventually moved all the stones — including the cow sculpture — to a museum in the region, where [they] remain on display for tourists to safely view.
posted by rory at 6:59 AM on June 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Proof, not that I needed any, that the instagram problem is hardly new.
posted by Mitheral at 8:57 PM on June 24, 2020

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