Astronomy 3: Understanding Time Cycles

above: a 21-petal object in the Heraklion Museum which could represent the 21 seven-day weeks in the 399 days of the Jupiter synod. [2004, Richard Heath]

One of the unfortunate aspects of adopting the number 360 for calibrating the Ecliptic in degrees is that the megalithic counted time in days and instead saw the ecliptic as divided by the 365¼ days. In transferring to the number 360, with all of its easy factors, 8 x 9 x 5, moderns cannot exploit a key advantage of 365¼ days.

If the lunar orbit takes 27.32166 days then each day the moon moves by 1/27.32166 of the ecliptic every day. For this reason, after 27.32166 days the orbit completes because the Moon’s “year” then equals one as the angular motion has been 27.32166/ 27.32166 = 1.

The same is true of the lunar nodes, which retrograde to the east along the ecliptic in 18.618 years. For this reason one can say, the lunar nodes move by 1/18.618 DAYS (in angle) every day and to travel one DAY in angle, the nodes take 18.618 DAYS per day (needing the new term “node day” equal the 18.618 days.*** A solar year takes 19.618 node days (since 365¼ equals 18.618 x 19.618) and an eclipse year takes 18.618 x 18.618 – 346.62 days

*** These are average figures since the moon comes under variable gravitational influences that are episodic.

A general rule emerges in which the larger, whole cycles, lead to reciprocals which can be numerically characterized by knowing the number of the days in the larger period.

For instance, Jupiter has a synodic excess over the solar year of 398.88 days and this means its angular motion is 1/ 398.88 DAYS per day while Saturn’s synod is 378.09 days and its angular motion is 1/ 378.09 DAYS per day. These synods are, by definition, differential to the Sun at 1/ 365.2422 DAYS per day.

Without seeing astronomy as calibrated to day and year cycles, one is robbed of much chance to appreciate the megalithic view of time and the time-factored buildings that came to be built in pursuit of quite advanced knowledge.

Looking from the relatively large cycles to the extremely small, daily angular changes of celestial bodies seen from Earth, reveals a further obscuration created, in this case, by the heliocentric view of the solar system, rather than the geocentric view which is obviously founded on days and years seen from the surface of the planet.

The largest cycle the megalithic could see using their techniques, reverses the direction from large-to-small to small-to-large since the precessional cycle (of the equinoctal nodes of the earth’s obliquity) is around 25,800 ± 100 years long. A star or constellation on the ecliptic appears to move east, like the lunar nodes, and using the angular measure of DAYS, it is possible to estimate that the equinoctal points move by a single DAY, in a given epoch, something like 71 years. The precessional cycle is therefore 71 years multiplied by the 365.2422 DAYS of the whole ecliptic.

The most important benefit of using DAY angles is that knowledge of a few celestial periods opens up a realm in which different scales of time can be derived from first principles. And added to that, the celestial periods appear related to one another so that so-called sacred numbers emerge such as the seven day week which divides into both the Saturn synod (54 weeks), Jupiter synod (57 weeks), the 364 day saturnian year (52 weeks) and others.

To understand the full scope of megalithic astronomy requires a geocentric calibration of the ecliptic as having 365¼ angular DAYS.

Geometry 7: Geometrical Expansion

above: the dolmen of Pentre Ifan (wiki tab)

In previous lessons, fixed lengths have been divided into any number of equal parts, to serve the notion of integer fractions in which the same length can then be reinterpreted as to its units or as a numerically different measurement. This allows all sorts of rescaling and exploitation of the properties of integer numbers.

Here we present a megalithic method which extended two or more fixed bearings (or alignments), usually based upon a simple geometrical form such as a triangle or a rectangle. This can be how the larger geometries came to be drawn on the landscape (here called landforms) of separated megaliths and natural features which appear to belong together. For example,

Outliers: Alexander Thom found that British stone circle were often associated with single outliers (standing stones) on a bearing that may correspond to horizon event but equally, appears to give clues to the metrology of the circle in the itinerary length to the outlier from the circle’s centre.

Figure 1 Stone circle plans often indicate nearby outliers and stone circles

Stone circles were also placed a significant distance and bearing away (figure 1), according to geometry or horizon events. This can be seen between Castle Rigg and Long Meg, two large flattened circles – the first Thom’s Type-A and the second his Type-B.

Figure 2 Two large megalithic circles appear linked in design and relative placement according to the geometry of the double square.

Expanding geometrically

The site plan of Castle Rigg (bottom left, fig. 1) can have the diagonal of a double square (in red) emerging between two stones which then bracket the chosen direction. This bearing could be maintained by expanding the double square so that west-to-east and south to north expand as the double and single length of a triangle while the hypotenuse then grows towards the desired spot according to a criteria such as, a latitude different to that of Castle Rigg. That is, at any expansion the eastings and northings are known as well as the distance between the two circles while the alignments, east and northeast in this example, are kept true by alignment to previous established points. Indeed, one sees that the small outlier circle of Long Meg, to Little Meg beyond, was again on the same diagonal bearing, according to the slope angle of the cardinal double square.*** One can call this a type of projective geometry.

***This extensive double square relation between megalithic sites was first developed by Howard Crowhurst, in Ireland between Newgrange and Douth in same orientation as figure 2, and by Robin Heath at https://robinheath.info/the-english-lake-district-stone-circles/.

It seems impossible for such arrangements to have been achieved without modern equipment and so the preference is to call these landforms co-incidental.  But, by embracing their intentionality, one can see a natural order between Castle Rigg and, only then, Long Meg’s outlying Little Meg circle, and through this find otherwise hidden evidence of the working methods in the form of erratics or outliers, whose purpose is otherwise unclear.

Equilateral Expansion

The work of Robin Heath in West Wales can be an interesting challenge since not all the key points on his Preseli Vesica are clearly megalithic, perhaps because megaliths can be displaced by settlements or be subsumed by churches, castles and so on. (see Bluestone Magic, chapter 8). First, for completeness, how is a vesica defined today? In his classic Sacred Geometry, Robert Lawlor explains the usual construction and properties of the vesica :

Drawing 2.3. Geometric proof of the √3 proportion within the Vesica Piscis. from Sacred Geometry by Robert Lawlor.

Draw the major and minor axes CD and AB. Draw CA, AD, DB and BC. By swinging arcs of our given radius from either centre A or B we trace along the vesica to points C and D, thus verifying that lines AB, BC, CA, BD and AD are equal to one another and to the radius common to both circles.

We now have two identical equilateral triangles emerging from within the Vesica Piscis. Extend lines CA and CB to intersect circles A and B at points G and F. Lines CG and CF are diameters of the two circles and thus twice the length of any of the sides of the triangles ABC and ABD. Draw FG passing through point D.

Sacred Geometry by Robert Lawlor

Primitive versus later geometry

Lawlor’s presentation have the triangles appearing as the conjuction of two circles and their centers. However, the points and lines of modern geometry translate, when interpreting the megalithic, into built structures or significant features, and the alignments which may join them. The alignments are environmental and in the sky or landscape.

  • A is Pentre Ifan, a dolmen dating from around 3500 BC.
  • B is located in the Carningli Hillfort, a mess of boulders below the peak Carningli (meaning angel mountain). Directly East,
  • C is the ancient village, church and castle of Nevern.
  • D is a recently excavated stone circle, third largest in Britain at around 360 feet diameter, but now ruinous, call Waun Mawn.

The two equilateral triangles have an average side length around 11,760 feet but, as drawn, each line is an alignment of azimuth 330, 0, 30, and 90 degrees and their antipodes. 

The Constructional Order

Relevant here is how one would lay out such a large landform and we will illustrate how this would be done using the method of expansion.

North can be deduced from the extreme elongation of the circumpolar stars in the north, since no pole star existed in 3200BC. At the same time it is possible to align to plus and minus 30 degrees using Ursa Major. This would give the geometry without the geometry so to speak, since ropes 11760 feet long are unfeasible. It seems likely that the Waun Mawn could function as a circumpolar observatory (as appears the case at Le Menec in Brittany, see my Lords of Time).

If the work was to start at Carningli fort, then the two alignments (a) east and (b) to Waun Mawn could be expanded in tandem until the sides were 11760 feet long, ending at the circle to the south and dolmen to the east. The third side between these sites should then be correct.

Figure 3 Proposed use of equilateral expansion from Carnigli fort to both what would become the dolmen of Pentre Ifan (az. 90 degrees) and Waun Mawn (azimuth 150 degrees).

The vesica has been formed to run alongside the mountain. The new eastern point is a dolmen that points north to another dolmen Llech-y-Drybedd on the raised horizon, itself a waypoint to Bardsey Island.

The reason for building the vesica appears wrapped up in the fact that its alignments are only three, tightly held within a fan of 60 degrees pointing north and back to the south. But the building of the double equilateral cannot be assumed to be related to the circular means of its construction given by Lawlor above. That is, megalithic geometry did not have the same roots as sacred geometry which has evolved over millennia since.

Geometry 6: the Geometrical AMY

By 2016 it was already obvious that the lunar month (in days) and the PMY, AMY and yard (in inches) had peculiar relationships involving the ratio 32/29, shown above. This can now be explained as a manifestation of day-inch counting and the unusual numerical properties of the solar and lunar year, when seen using day-inch counting.

It is hard to imagine that the English foot arose from any other process than day-inch counting; to resolve the excess of the solar year over the lunar year, in three years – the near-anniversary of sun and moon. This created the Proto Megalithic Yard (PMY) of 32.625 day-inches as the difference.

Figure 1 The three solar year count’s geometrical demonstration of the excess in length of 3 solar years over 3 lunar years as the 32.625 day-inch PMY.

A strange property of N:N+1 right triangles can then transform this PMY into the English foot, when counting over a single lunar and solar year using the PMY to count months.

The metrological explanation

If one divides the three-year excess (here, the PMY) into the base then N, the normalized base of the N:N+1 triangle. In the case of the sun and moon, N is very nearly 32.625, so that the lunar to solar years are closely in the ratio 32.625:33.625. Because of this, if one counts 

  • months instead of days,
  • using the three-year excess (i.e. the PMY) to stand for the lunar month,
  • over a single year,

the excess becomes, quite unexpectedly, the reciprocal of the PMY;

One has effectively normalized the solar year as 12.368 PMYs long. This single year difference, of 0.368 lunar months cancels with the PMY; the 0.36827 lunar months becoming 12.0147 inches. Were the true Astronomical Megalithic Yard (AMY of 32.585 inches) used, instead of the PMY, the foot of 12 inches would result. Indeed, this is the AMYs definition, as being the N (normalizing value) of 32.585 inches long, unique to the sun-moon cycle. The AMY only becomes clear, in feet, after completion of 19 solar years. This Metonic anniversary of sun and moon over 235 lunar months, is exactly 7 lunar months larger than 19 lunar years (228 months).

But this is all seen using the arithmetical methods of ancient metrology, which did not exist in the megalithic circa 4000BC. Our numeracy can divide the 1063.1 day-inches by 32.625 day-inches, to reveal the AMY as 32.585 inches long, but the megalithic could not. Any attempt to resolve the AMY in the megalithic, using a day-inch technology***, without arithmetical processes, could not resolve the AMY over 3 years as it is a mere 40 thousandths of an inch smaller than the PMY. So arithmetic provides us with an explanation, but prevents us from explaining how the megalithic came to have a value for the AMY; only visible over long itineraries requiring awkward processes to divide using factorization. However, by exploiting the coincidences of number built in to the lunar and solar years, geometry could oblige. 

***One can safely assume the early megalithic resolved
eighths or tenths of an inch when counting day-inches.

The geometrical explanation

In proposing the AMY was properly quantified, in the similarly early megalithic cultures of Carnac in France and the Preselis in Wales, one must turn to a geometrical method

  1. One clue is that the yard of 3 feet (36 inches) is exactly 32/29ths of the PMY. This shows itself in the fact that 32 PMYs equal 29 yards.
  2. Another clue is that the lunar month had been quantified (at Le Manio) by finding 32 months equalled 945 day-inches. By inference, the lunar month is therefore 945 day-inches divided by 32 or 945/32 (29.53125) day-inches – very close to our present knowledge of 29.53059 days.

From point 1, one can geometrically express any length that is 32 relative to another of 29, using the right triangle (29,32). And from point 2, since the 945 day period is 32 lunar months, as a length it will be in the ratio 29 to 32 to a length 32 PMYs long, the triangle’s hypotenuse.

Point 1 also means that 32 PMY (of 32.625 inches) will equal 1044 inches, which must also be 29 x 36 inches, and 29 yards hence handily divides the 32 side of the {29 32} right triangle into 29 portions equal to a yard on that side. One can then “mirror the right triangle about its 29-side so as to be able to draw 29 parallel lines between the two, mirrored, 32-sides, as shown in figure 1. The 945 day-inch 29-side which already equals 32 lunar months (in day-inches), now has 29 megalithic yards in that length, which are then an AMY of 945/29 day-inches!

Figure The 29:32 relationship of the PMY to the yard as 32 PMY = 29 yards whilst 32 lunar months (945 days) is 29 AMY.

Comparing the two AMYs and their necessary origins

Using a modern calculator, 945 divided by the PMY actually gives 28.9655 PMY and not 29, so that 945 inches requires a unit slightly smaller than the PMY and 945/29 gives the result as 32.586 inches, which length one could call the geometrical AMY. This AMY is 30625/30624 of the AMY in ancient metrology which is arrived at as 2.7 feet times 176/175 equal to 32.585142857 inches. By implication therefore, the ancient AMY is the root Drusian step whose formula is 19.008/7 feet whilst the first AMY was resolved by the megalithic to be 945/29 inches.

This geometrical AMY (gAMY?) obviously hailed from the world of day-inch counting, which proceeded the ancient arithmetical metrology which was based upon fractions of the English foot. The gAMY is 32/29 of the lunar month of 29.53125 (945/32) day-inches, since 945/32 inches × 32/29 is 945/29 inches.

Using ancient metrology to interpret the earliest megalithic monuments may be questionable in the absence of a highly civilised source which had, in an even greater antiquity, provided it; from an “Atlantis”. In contrast, the monumental record of the megalithic suggests that geometrical methods were in active development and involved less sophisticated metrology, on a step-by-step basis.  From this arose the English foot which, being twelve times larger than the inch, could provide the more versatile metrology of fractional feet, to provide a pre-arithmetical mechanism, to solve numerical problems through geometrical re-scaling. This foot based, fractional metrology then developed into the ancient metrology of Neal and Michell, which itself survived to become our historical metrology [Petrie and Berriman].

The two types of AMY, geometrical and the metrological, though not identical are practically indistinguishable; the AMY being just over one thousandths of an inch larger. The geometrical AMY (945/29 inches) is shown, by figure 2, to be geometrically resolvable, and so must have preceded the metrological AMY, itself only 40 thousandths of an inch less than the PMY.

The two AMYs, effectively identical, reveal a developmental history starting with day-inch counting, and division of 945 inches by 29 was made easy by exploiting the alternative factorisation of 32 PMV as 36 × 29 yards using geometry. The AMY of ancient metrology was the necessary rationalization of 945/29 inches into the foot- based system.

Bibliography for Ancient Metrology

  1. Berriman, A. E. Historical Metrology. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1953.
  2. Heath, Robin, and John Michell. Lost Science of Measuring the Earth: Discovering the Sacred Geometry of the Ancients. Kempton, Ill.: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2006. Reprint edition of The Measure of Albion.
  3. Michell, John. Ancient Metrology. Bristol, England: Pentacle Press, 1981.
  4. Neal, John. All Done with Mirrors. London: Secret Academy, 2000.
  5. —-. Ancient Metrology. Vol. 1, A Numerical Code—Metrological Continuity in Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Age Europe. Glastonbury, England: Squeeze, 2016.
  6. —-. Ancient Metrology. Vol. 2, The Geographic Correlation—Arabian, Egyptian, and Chinese Metrology. Glastonbury, England: Squeeze, 2017.
  7. Petri, W. M. Flinders. Inductive Metrology. 1877. Reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Astronomy 2: The Chariot with One Wheel


What really happens when Earth turns? The rotation of Earth describes periods that are measured in days. The solar year is 365.242 days long, the lunation period 29.53 days long, and so forth.

Extracted from Matrix of Creation, page 42.

Earth orbits the Sun and, from Earth, the Sun appears to move through the stars. But the stars are lost in the brightness of the daytime skies and this obscures the Sun’s progress from human view. However, through observation of the inexorable seasonal changes in the positions of the constellations, the Sun’s motion can be determined.

The sidereal day is defined by the rotation of Earth relative to the stars. But this is different from what we commonly call a day, the full title of which is a tropical day. Our day includes extra time for Earth to catch up with the Sun before another sunrise. Our clocks are synchronized to this tropical day of twenty-four hours (1,440 minutes).

The Sun circumnavigates the zodiac in 365 tropical days, within which 366 sidereal days have occurred. There is one full Earth rotation more than there are sunrises within a year. This hidden oneness within the year is recapitulated in the one-unit difference between the number of sidereal days and the number of tropical days in a practical year.

The small catch-up time in every day is about three minutes and
fifty-six seconds long. This unit defines not only a sidereal day with 365 such units but also the practical year of 365 tropical days. The catchup unit is the difference between the duration of a sidereal day and that of a tropical day. It relates the Sun’s daily motion to the rotation of Earth and is a fundamental unit of Earth time (figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6. A polar view of Earth’s equator showing sunrises for two consecutive days. Compared with clock time, the stars rise three minutes and fifty-six seconds earlier each evening. (Drawn by Robin Heath)

THE MOON GATHERS THE TEN THOUSAND WATERS

The sidereal day (the duration of one rotation of Earth) is a very significant cosmic unit. The Jupiter synodic period of 398.88 tropical days is within 99.993% of four hundred sidereal days long. Therefore, twenty-five Jupiter synods (365 lunar orbital periods) equal 10,000 sidereal days since four hundred times twenty-five is 10,000.

A sidereal day differs from a tropical day due to the motion of the Sun during one tropical day. The three-minute-and-fifty-six-second time difference between these two days, the aforementioned catch-up unit, is quite useful when applied as the unit to measure the length of these days. A tropical day has 366 of these units while the sidereal day has 365 of the same units. The difference between the two is one unit.

Since 365 lunar orbits equal 10,000 sidereal days, it follows that a single lunar orbit has a duration of 10000/365 sidereal days. There are 365 units in a sidereal day, and therefore 10,000 units in a lunar orbit, so this new unit of time is 1/10000 of a lunar orbit. One ten-thousandth of a lunar orbit coincidentally is three minutes and fifty-six seconds in duration. The proportions in the Jupiter cycle combine with the lunar orbit, solar year, and Earth’s rotation to generate a parallel number system involving the numbers 25, 40, 365, 366, 400, and 10,000.

This daily catch-up unit I shall a chronon. Its existence means that the rotation of Earth is synchronized with both the lunar orbit and the Jupiter synodic period using a time unit of about three minutes and fifty-six seconds.

The sidereal day of 365 chronons is the equivalent of the 365-day practical year, the chronon itself is equivalent to the sidereal day, and so on. The creation of equivalents through exact scaling enables a larger structure to be modeled within itself on a smaller scale. This is a recipe for the integration of sympathetic vibratory rhythms between the greater and the lesser structures, a planetary law of subsumption.

The exemplar of the chronon was found at Le Menec: It’s egg-shaped western cromlech has a circumference of 10,000 inches and, if inches were chronons (1/365th of the earth’s rotation), then the egg’s circumference would be the number of chronons in the lunar orbit of 10,000. Dividing 10,000 by 366 (the chronons in the tropical day) gives a lunar orbit of 27.3224 – accurate to one part in 36704! The forming circle of Le Menec’s egg geometry provided a circumpolar observatory of circumference 365 x 24 inches, which is two feet per chronon versus the chronon per inch of the egg as lunar orbit.

The quantified form of the Le Menec cromlech was therefore chosen by the builders to be a unified lunar orbital egg, with a forming circle represented the rotation of the Earth at a scaling of 1:24 between orbital and rotational time.

The form of Le Mence’s cromlech unified the 10,000 chronon orbit of the Moon and 365 chronon circle of the Earth rotation because Thom’s Type 1 geometry naturally achieved the desired ratio. When the circle’s circumference (light blue) was 24 x 365 inches there were 10,000 inches on the egg’s. Underlying site plan by Thom, MRBB.

This design is further considered in Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, chapter 4: The Framework of Change on Earth, from the point of view of the cromlech’s purpose of providing a working model of the lunar orbit relative to the rotation of the circumpolar sky, leading to the placement of stones in rows according to the moon’s late or early rising to the East.

Capturing Sidereal Time


We can now complete our treatment of Carnac’s astronomical monuments by returning to Le Menec where the challenge was to measure time accurately in units less than a single day. This is done today at every astronomical observatory using a clock that keeps pace with the stars rather than the sun.

The 24 hours of a sidereal clock, roughly four minutes short of a normal day, are actually tracking the rotation of the Earth since Earth rotation is what makes all the stars move. Even the sun during the day moves through the sky because the Earth moves. Therefore, in all sidereal astronomy, the Earth is actually the prime mover. The geometry of a circumpolar observatory can reveal not only which particular circumpolar star was used to build the observatory but also the relatively short period of time in which the observatory was designed. Each bright circumpolar star is recognizable by its unique elongation on the horizon in azimuth and its correspondingly unique and representative circumpolar orbital radius in azimuth. …

The knowledge that was discovered due to the Le Menec observatory is awe inspiring when the perimeter of the egg shape is taken into account. It is close to 10,000 inches, the number of units of sidereal time the moon takes to orbit the Earth. The egg was enlarged in order to quantify the orbit of the moon as follows: every 82 days (three lunar orbits) the moon appears over the same part of the ecliptic. Dividing the ecliptic into sidereal days we arrive at 366 units of time per solar day.*

*These units are each the time required for an observer on the surface of the Earth to catch up with a sun that has moved within the last 24 hours, on the ecliptic, a time difference of just less than four minutes.

82 days times 366 divided by the three lunar orbits gives the moon’s sidereal orbit as 122 times 82 day-inches. Instead of dividing 82 by three as we might today to find the moon’s orbit, the pre-arithmetic of metrology enabled the solar day (of 366 units) to be divided into three lengths of 122. If a rope 122 inches long is then used 82 times (a whole number), to lay out a longer length, a length of 10,004 inches results. If 10,004 is divided by 366 units per day then the moon’s orbit emerges as 82/3 or 27⅓ days.

If a moon marker is placed upon the Le Menec perimeter and moved 122 inches per day, the perimeter becomes a simulator of the moon. …
Knowing the moon’s position on the western cromlech’s model of ecliptic and knowing which parts of the ecliptic are currently rising from the circumpolar stars enabled the astronomers to measure the moon’s ecliptic latitude.

Hence the phenomena related to the retrograde motion of the lunar orbit’s nodal period could be studied and its 6800 day length.

Astronomy 1: Knowing North and the Circumpolar Sky

about how the cardinal directions of north, south, east and west were determined, from Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, chapter 4, pages 84-86.

Away from the tropics there is always a circle of the sky whose circumpolar stars never set and that can be used for observational astronomy. As latitude increases the pole gets higher in the north and the disk of the circumpolar region, set at the angular height of the pole, ascends so as to dominate the northern sky at night.

Northern circumpolar stars appearing to revolve around the north celestial pole. Note that Polaris, the bright star near the center, remains almost stationary in the sky. The north pole star is constantly above the horizon throughout the year, viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. (The graphic shows how the apparent positions of the stars move over a 24-hour period, but in practice, they are invisible in daylight, in which sunlight outshines them.)
[courtesy Wikipedia on “circumpolar star”, animation by user:Mjchael CC-ASA2.5]

Therefore, the angular height of the pole at any latitude is the same angle we use to define that latitude, and this equals the half angle between the outer circumpolar stars and the pole itself. For example, Carnac has a latitude of 47.5 degrees north so that the pole will be raised by 47.5 degrees above a flat horizon, while the circumpolar region will then be 95 degrees in angular extent.

It is perhaps no accident that the pole is called a pole since to visualize the polar axis one can imagine a physical pole with a star on top, like a toy angel’s wand. The circumpolar region is “suspended” around the pole like a plate “held up” by the pole. Therefore, a physical pole, set into the ground, can be used to view the north pole from a suitable distance south (i.e., with the pole’s top as a foresight for the observer’s backsight). Such an observing pole would probably have been set at the center of a circle drawn on the ground, representing the circumpolar region around the north pole. This arrangement, a gnomon,* existed throughout history but usually presented as part of a sun dial.

*According to the testimony of Herodotus, the gnomon was originally an astronomical instrument invented in Mesopotamia and introduced to Greece by Anaximander. It was innovated even earlier, in the megalithic period, because structures that could operate one still exist within megalithic monuments.

It now appears a gnomic pole was also used in prehistory to locate the north pole in the middle of circumpolar skies. The north pole is opposite the shadow of the equinoctal sun at midday. The gnomic pole could also be used to find “true north,” as located halfway between the extremes of the same circumpolar star above the northern horizon. This can make use of the fact that when the sun is at equinox, it lies on the celestial equator and therefore is at a right angle to the north pole (see figure 4.4). This right angle is expressed at the top of the gnomic pole used and hence can enable the alignment of the pole through the similarity (or congruence) of all the right-angled triangles within the arrangement.

Figure 4.4. From pole to pole. It is possible to determine the angle of the north pole using a gnomic pole as shadow stick, but only at noon on the equinox. The laddie on the left cannot do this to a possible few minutes of a degree, but the geometry of the stick and shadow length can, providing true north and equinox alignments of east and west can be determined. Illustration on left from Robin Heath, Sun, Moon and Stonehenge, fig. 9.3.

Figure 4.4. From pole to pole. It is possible to determine the angle of the north pole using a gnomic pole as shadow stick, but only at noon on the equinox. The laddie on the left cannot do this to a possible few minutes of a degree, but the geometry of the stick and shadow length can, providing true north and equinox can be determined. Illustration on left from Robin Heath, Sun, Moon and Stonehenge, fig. 9.3.

To achieve an accurate bearing to true north, a circumpolar observatory can use the gnomic pole method, not just at noon on the equinox but every night, by dividing the angular range of circumpolar star, in azimuth. The north pole’s altitude, known to us as latitude on the Earth, can then be identified by dividing the angular range in altitude of a circumpolar star, a task achievable through geometry and metrology, so as to create a metrological model of the latitude upon the Earth.

It would seem obvious today that the pole star Polaris could have been used, but this is a persistent and widespread misunderstanding of the role of pole stars within the ancient and prehistoric world. Epochs in which there is a star within one degree of the pole are very rare and shortlived. Our pole star, Polaris (alpha Ursa Minor), is currently placed two thirds of a degree from a pole that is moving through the northern sky (figure 4.3 on p. 83) in a circle around the ecliptic pole of the solar system. Polaris will be nearest the pole (about ½ degree) at the end of this century.

The last time there was a star at all near the north pole was prior to the construction of the Great Pyramid in 2540 BCE . That pole star was Thuban (Alpha Draconis), and it was just one-fifteenth of a degree from the pole in 2800 BCE . The Great Pyramid has a narrow air shaft that pointed to Thuban, at which time it was already departing the pole and nearly one-third of a degree from it. Therefore, the megalithic people at Carnac, as well as almost all cultures throughout time, did not have the convenience of a pole star in approximately locating the north pole.

From 5000 to 4000 BCE , the time of megalithic building at Carnac, the north pole was a dark region surrounded by many bright stars. The inability to locate the north pole using a pole star challenged the people of the megalithic to develop a more sophisticated and accurate method. In any case, true north and latitude needed to be located more accurately than by using a pole star, which can only ever approximate the position of the north pole. Also, through the circumpolar observatory, sidereal time and even longitude between sites could be measured once the movement of the circumpolar stars could be exploited. True north, based upon these stars around the pole, can give the cardinal directions to an observatory.

The equinoctial sunrise in the east and sunset in the west can give a mean azimuth (horizon angle) to obtain south and north but only if the horizon is dead flat to each of these alignments. Far better then to observe the extremes of motion of a single circumpolar star, to the east and the west, to then find the North pole in between those two alignments.

Defining North by bringing the “clock in the sky” down to earth


One can therefore see that the circumpolar stars and sighting techniques, involving a gnomon, allowed north and the cardinal directions in a more reliable way than recording sunrise and sunsets since the sun on the horizon is variable between years due to the solar year having nearly ¼ day more than 365 days. The circumpolar stars enabled buildings and long sights to be built to true north-south-east-west, and by ignoring this, a building such as the Great Pyramid of Giza surprises us with its accurate placement relative to the cardinal directions.

Geometry 5: Easy application of numerical ratios

above: Le Manio Quadrilateral

This series is about how the megalithic, which had no written numbers or arithmetic, could process numbers, counted as “lengths of days”, using geometries and factorization.

The last lesson showed how right triangles are at home within circles, having a diameter equal to their longest side whereupon their right angle sits upon the circumference. The two shorter sides sit upon either end of the diameter (Fig. 1a). Another approach (Fig. 1b) is to make the next longest side a radius, so creating a smaller circle in which some of the longest side is outside the circle. This arrangement forces the third side to be tangent to the radius of the new circle because of the right angle between the shorter sides. The scale of the circle is obviously larger in the second case.

Figure 1 (a) Right triangle within a circle, (b) Making a tangent from a radius.

Figure 1 (a) Right triangle within a circle, (b) Making a tangent from a radius.

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