Astronomical Rock Art at Stoupe Brow, Fylingdales

first published 28 October 2016

I recently came across Rock Art and Ritual by Brian Smith and Alan Walker, (subtitled Interpreting the Prehistoric landscapes of the North York Moors. Stroud: History Press 2008. 38.). It tells the story: Following a wildfire of many square miles of the North Yorkshire Moors, thought ecologically devastating, those interested in its few decorated stones headed out to see how these antiquities had fared.

Background

Fire had revealed many more stones carrying rock art or in organised groups. An urgent archaeological effort would be required before the inevitable regrowth of vegetation.


Figure 1 Neolithic stone from Fylingdales Moor | Credit: Graham Lee, North York Moors National Park Authority.

A photo of one stone in particular attracted my attention, at a site called Stoupe Brow (a.k.a. Brow Moor) near Fylingdales, North Yorkshire.

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Counting lunar eclipses using the Phaistos Disk

This paper* concerns itself with a unique fired-clay disk, found by Luigi Pernier in 1908 within the Minoan “palace” of Phaistos (aka Faistos), on the Greek island of Crete. Called the Phaistos Disk, its purpose or meaning has been interpreted many times, largely seen as either (a) a double-sided text in the repeated form of a spiral and outer circle written using an unknown pictographic language stamped in the clay or (b) as an astronomical device, record or handy reference. We provide a calendric interpretation based on the simplest lunar calendars known to apply in Minoan times, finding the Disk to be (a) an elegant solution to predicting repeated eclipses within the Saros period and (b) an observation that the Metonic is just one lunar year longer, and true to the context of the Minoan culture of that period.

*First Published on 26 May 2017

Figure 1. The location of Phaistos Palace atop a commanding hill in the middle of the fertile Massara valley in southern Crete. The Phaistos Disk was discovered in 1908 in chamber 8 of the northeast wing of the “Old Palace” (pre-1700 BCE) as per above diagram inserted from Balistier, 2000, 5.
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