Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, Vol 3, No 2 (2017)

Modelling Lunar Extremes

David Fisher, Lionel Sims
Issued Date: 24 Jan 2018

Abstract


Claims first made over half a century ago that certain prehistoric monuments utilised high-precision alignments on the horizon risings and settings of the Sun and the Moon have recently resurfaced. While archaeoastronomy early on retreated from these claims, as a way to preserve the discipline in an academic boundary dispute, it did so without a rigorous examination of Thom’s concept of a “lunar standstill”. Gough’s uncritical resurrection of Thom’s usage of the term provides a long-overdue opportunity for the discipline to correct this slippage. Gough (2013), in keeping with Thom (1971), claims that certain standing stones and short stone rows point to distant horizon features which allow high-precision alignments on the risings and settings of the Sun and the Moon dating from about 1700 BC. To assist archaeoastronomy in breaking out of its interpretive rut and from “going round in circles” (Ruggles 2011), this paper evaluates the validity of this claim. Through computer modelling, the celestial mechanics of horizon alignments are here explored in their landscape context with a view to testing the very possibility of high-precision alignments to the lunar extremes. It is found that, due to the motion of the Moon on the horizon, only low-precision alignments are feasible, which would seem to indicate that the properties of lunar standstills could not have included high-precision markers for prehistoric megalith builders.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/jsa.34686

References


Chapront-Touze, M. and J. Chapront, 1991. Lunar Tables and Programs from 4000 B.C. to A.D. 8000. Richmond, Virginia: Willmann- Bell.


Da Silva, C. M., 2009. “The Spring Full Moon”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 35 (4): 475–478. https://doi.org/10.1177/002182860403500407


Espenak, F., 2016. Periodicity of Lunar Eclipses [online]. Accessed August 2016, https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEsaros/LEperiodicity.html#section104


Fisher, D., 2013. “Employing 3-dimensional Computer Simulation to Examine the Celestial Dating of Scottish Megalithic Sites”. In Ancient Cosmologies and Modern Prophets, edited by I. Šprajc and P. Pehani, 143–156. Ljubljana: Slovene Anthropological Society.


Gough, T., 2013. “New Evidence for Precise Lunar Alignments in Argyll, Scotland in the Early Bronze Age”. In Ancient Cosmologies and Modern Prophets, edited by I. Šprajc and P. Pehani, 157–176. Ljubljana: Slovene Anthropological Society.


MacKie, E., 1977. The Megalithic Builders. London: Phaidon Press.


North, J., 1996. Stonehenge: A New Interpretation of Prehistoric Man and the Cosmos. New York: Free Press.


Reijs, V. M. M., 2016. Investigating the Major Lunar Standstill Limit Event in 2006 [online]. Accessed August 2016, http://www.archaeocosmology.org/eng/majorstandstills.htm


Ruggles, C. L. N., 1999. Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.


Ruggles, C. L. N., 2011. “Pushing Back the Frontiers or Still Running Around the Same Circles? ‘Interpretive Archaeoastronomy’ Thirty Years On”. In Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy: Building Bridges between Cultures, edited by C. L. N. Riggles, 1–18. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Sims, L., 2006. “The ‘Solarization’ of the Moon: Manipulated Knowledge at Stonehenge”. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 16 (2): 191–207. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959774306000114


Sims, L., 2007. “What Is a Lunar Standstill? Problems of Accuracy and Validity in the Thom Paradigm”. Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry 6 (3): 161–167.


Sims, L., 2016. “What is the Minor Standstill of the Moon?”. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology 2 (1): 67–76. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsa.v2i1.30212


Silva, F. and F. Pimenta, 2012. “The Crossover of the Sun and the Moon”. Journal for the History of Astronomy 43 (2): 191–208. https://doi.org/10.1177/002182861204300204


Thom, A., 1967. Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Thom, A., 1971. Megalithic Lunar Observatories. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.





Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy