The Mouse Ran Up The Clock
By Allan EastmanGo back to Page 1
Somewhere about 50,000 years ago, it seems there was a significant change in the way that early Homo Sapiens perceived Time. That is when grave sites started to contain funerary items – goods for the use of the Dead in the afterlife. This means that Humans were reflecting on both the duration of Life and on potential futures in a more profound way then mere day to day existence.
It is impossible to know whether this was tied to the development of spiritual cosmologies but that seems likely - an awareness of animistic Gods, especially in the Sky, that affected Human existence. As we saw last issue, most early Time conceptions were closely related to Human Beings’ relationship with their perceived Gods.
Recent archaeological interpretations of markings on some bone artefacts from about 33,000 years ago suggest that they were some kind of measuring Tool to keep track of lunar cycles. Again, whether this was tied to spiritual ritual or was used to predict animal migrations or to measure the passing of seasons is uncertain. Perhaps for all these reasons, or for others, but the point is that the use of manmade objects to attempt to measure Time was underway some 25 centuries before the rise of our early civilizations.
We’ve seen how the earliest Time conceptions were deeply concerned with the movements of the Sky Gods, particularly the Sun and Moon. In the Neolithic Era, about 5000 – 6000 years ago, there was a sudden explosion of building of the Great Stone Circles all over the planet by early societies.
The construction of these sites required incredible outlays of human effort to build - in the transport and raising of the gigantic stones which serve as markers - and seem to display the highest levels of early skill and measurement in their alignment. These circles all appear to be Tools for measuring astronomical phenomena.
The most famous of these sites is Stonehenge in southern England. The main axis of the Stonehenge site aligns precisely with the Summer Solstice so that whoever was the Master of Stonehenge could sight along this line directly to the rising Sun in mid Summer, marking its apparent most Northerly position.
Researchers at the Neolithic Majorville Medicine Wheel in Canada note that the site aligns with the Cardinal Directions to within 1/10 of a degree. They maintain that the Wheel calibrates the rising of the Sun at both Equinox and Solstice, the northernmost and southernmost declination of the Moon, the Saros Cycle - which is a period of recurring eclipses - as well as the apparent movements of the Pleiades star cluster and the retrograde motions of Venus. In other words, it is a massive celestial calendar. The wheel sits at 51 degrees North latitude - the same as Stonehenge and the big Stone Circle in China.
While it is true that these suppositions about the exact purposes and calibrations of the Great Circle sites cannot be completely verified, the idea that Humans all over the planet were building Tools to measure astronomical phenomena at approximately the same period is an incredibly exciting one. Whatever the ritualistic reasons for their construction, Stonehenge and the other sites are outstanding monuments to Humans’ early attempts to codify Time.
Other early civilizations show a similar astronomical and mathematical savvy in the construction of many of their monumental structures. The Great Pyramid at Giza, constructed with astounding mathematical precision about 2600 BC in some ways can be thought of as a gigantic Time Machine, transporting the dead Pharaoh on into the afterlife.
The later Mayan civilization, at a similar stage of development, developed extremely accurate astronomical calendars and the Pyramid at Chichen Itza is exactly aligned with the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. This precision is demonstrated in an amazing piece of sculpture there. At the base of the pyramid’s stairs is a giant stone Snake’s Head and at the top a curling Tail. Twice a year, at the Equinoxes, the shadow of the stairs of the pyramid aligns with the shadows of the head and the tail to create the complete spiny backed Snake – an awesome artistic example of a kind of biannual clock.