The Best Book About Ancient Astronomy that isn’t about astrology, per se
by Milky Way Maid
One of the best books I can recommend to anyone interested in learning how and why ancient peoples kept track of sky markers is one that has nothing to do with astrology. The book is “America B.C.” by Barry Fell, who is a bit of a renegade when it comes to attributing ancient peoples with the ability to make notations of the important stuff like the spring equinox.
One of the most interesting and exciting parts of the book are where he explains the translation of the strange markings above a rock doorway in old New England. First I have to explain that Mr. Fell is a bit of a radical in that he believes that peoples from ancient Celtic and Mediterranean lands were able to reach North America and left written records on stone markers and monuments. But he has shown that the attempted translations of these markings result in coherent astronomical or historical statements.
As he writes at the beginning of Chapter 13, “In Chapters 5 and 6 it was shown that the New England Celts employed an Ogam alphabet of at least 12 symbols, identical with those used in Portugal and Span in the late Bronze Age, about 800 BC. The New England signs also carry the same sound values as those of the Iberian peninsula . . . The chances that two such similar events can take place independently can be calculated by the mathematical theory of probability. It turns out that there is less than once chance in 430,000,000 that identical 12-letter alphabets could arise independently in two unrelated civilizations. For the 17-letter Ogam alphabet of Monhegan, Maine and Ireland, the chances of independent origin in these two places are less than one in 300 trillion.”
The outer lintel of the winter solstice temple at South Woodstock, Vermont, and a nearby stone called the Beltane Stone found lying prostrate on the ground have inscriptions that help date the temple by its calendar information. The inside entrance piers of the solstice temple were “used in observation of the lunar track and in the prediction of eclipses.” The exposed face of the first lintel bears a dedication inscription. The shadow of the lower edge of the outer lintel coincides with sunrise with the end of the observatory porch on the equinoxes, March 21 and September 21. The temple is twenty feet long, providing a clear and accurate view of the Dec. 22 sunrise in a notch in the distant range of hills when the observer stands on the altar area.
The Beltane stone, discovered in 1975, has Latin lettering for the words “day 39”. The stone probably was once part of the calendar circle before it fell over; it was later moved to the Mystery Hill museum. What is the significance of day 39? this is where some historical sleuthing reveals that after Julius Caesar instituted his new calendar in 45 BC, the date of the spring equinox was set at March 25 and the new year on January 1.
The Celts of New England apparently retained the OLD-style calendar. Beltane, the Druid holiday celebrated on May 1, fell on the 39th day of the year if one counts from the old-style New Year occurrence on the Aries ingress, the first day of spring. Beltane currently falls on Day 43 of the Celtic calendar, but due to precession, the Equinox day would have fallen in late March (rather than March 21 as in modern times). The Beltane stone therefore dates from the time of Christ, “but not later than about the third century AD.”
Perhaps you prefer to study the standing stones of the Mystery Hill, New Hampshire site. No Ogam scratches on these stones. Discovered in 1965, or more probably re-discovered, since somebody obviously placed them, they mark the sunrise and sunset of the major markers of the quarter year. Bob Stone wrote of his discovery:
“My first suspicion was that the area around the so-called Table of Sacrifice might be the primary viewing site, and that the standing stones might mark positions of sunrise and sunset for particular days of the year, significant perhaps for the unknown people who had built the site. So I began to cut swaths through the woods to make it possible to see the standing stones from the central sacrificial area, also to bring into unobstructed view the horizon beyond the stones. Using a transit telescope and a compass I began to realize that some of the stones at least had a definite relationship to important astronomical axes. On December 21, 1970, after four years of of work, the sky remained clear and we now observed the sun slowly descending towards the monolith that we had recognized as marking the solstice. From the viewing area near the sacrificial table, some 500 yards away, we saw the sun above the monolith, behind which it then set.”
The Mystery Hill observation platform provided lines of sight to Midsummer sunset, Midsummer sunrise, Midwinter sunset, and Midwinter sunrise with only minutes of arc of deviation from their calculated values.
The ancient peoples of the world were keenly aware of and keenly observant of the motions of the sun and moon. If we only have eyes to see, we can find literally thousands of markers of their observations which they recorded for the benefit of those who followed.
AMERICA B.C., by Barry Fell, Pocket Books, New York, 1976. ISBN 067179079-x. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number– 75-36269.