STONE AGE ASTRONOMY
The questions we raise here are about the nature of the development of consciousness and interest in science, and where aer the beginnings of astronomy.
At some point in the history of humans, there must have developed a consciousness about the movement in the heavens and the thinsg in general that went on in the real world around them.
When was that, and what was that?
We may never know the answers to these questions, but it is likely that the moon phases are one of the earliest noted astronomical phenomenon.
When did this happen?
Prehistoric people evolve over a period of time that is thought to be perhaps 5,000,000 at this point. The earliest "humans" are not really like us, but are certainly more like us than they are like the apes to which we are closely related. These animals, which include Australopithecines, are not even in the genus "Homo".
Later we find fossil forms which have been called Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergatser, and Homo sapiens. The species sapiense is thought to appear about 100,000 years ago and is defined by 2 sub species "sapiens" and "neanderthal". Both of which are usually classed as Homo sapiens.
In addition to classifying fossils by the biology,archaeoloists have classified cultural types, generally based on the use of stone, particulalry flint. Some archaeologists have pointed out that probably more than three quarters of human history is written in flint.
These early stages of culture development are known as the "Stone Ages".
I. What are the Stone Ages?
Time periods are divided into cultural periods, often associated with specific fossil forms.
_______Upper Homo sapiens sapiens
Paleolithic-|-------Middle Homo sapiens neanderthal
| Homo erectus
The Old World styles or tool traditions are:
Magdalenian (last upper Paleolithic tradition)
Gravettian (Eastern Europe 27,000-17,000 BP)
Solutrian (France and Spain 24,000 - 20,000 BP)
Perigordian (early; SW France and Spain 35,000-20,000 BP)
Aurignacian (Old world 35,000- 20,000)
Mousterian (Middle Paleolithic; Neanderthals)
Acheullean (An early hand ax tradition)
Oldowan (Oldavai Gorge - East Africa)
II.When are these human?
A. tool makers? - chimps do it
i. some questions about nature of tools
a. make tools when needed (chimps with termite sticks
b. make tools when needed but take them
c. make tools before needed
d. questions of style or tradition.
B. Intellectual history
a. language crucial as channel for transmitting culture. When it begins is uncertain. Some say early, some say later. Some argue about Neanderthals. These scientists have no clue on the nature of language
ii. symbolic systems - e.g. religion
a. conventionalism vs. arbitrary
iii intellect as expressed in knowledge about the universe: i.e. development of science, mathematics
iv. When does it begin? How to know?
III. Paleolithic interest
A. Australopithecines have tools - sort of - lack tradition
B. Homo erectus has fire
C. Homo sapiens (Neanderthals) seem to have religion
D. Homo sapiens sapiens have elaborated arts, and science - but when?
A. What is science?
1. Early anthropological argument. Does everyone have? Evolutionists - no. Malinowski: yes
i. evolutionary theories:
ii. currently, more approach - not output. Should be testable. Not always experimental
B. starts with Greeks "suddenly" (Marshack)
1. what might the precursors be?
i. keeping track of heavens
ii. heavens and meaning (what does the moon cycle mean?
V. WHAT CHANGES ARE MOST NOTICED IN THE SKY AS REGULAR?
A. Diurnal movement. Daily rising and setting of things. Apparent motion vs. actual. Even today not very serious distinction to us today. We think of earth as stationary and the sky as moving. See MELANESIAN NAVIGATION PROBLEM. Point at sun at sunrise and at noon. Problem is earth conceptualized as fixed and sun moving. Movement VERY regular, but virtually no change.
B. The MOON
A. Earth's satellite: revolves around the earth. Rotates in same period. Same face always to the earth (NOT: THE MOON DOESN'T ROTATE. PERIOD OF ROTATION = PERIOD OF REVOLUTION.
B. Moon's phases: New, waxing, to 1/4; 1/2 o full, wanes to new.
C. Lunar passage
a. Types of "months". Synodic (full moon to full moon; or new moon to new moon 29d12h44m2.8s)
b. Sidereal month: one revolution around earth with respect to the stars. (27d7h43m11.5s)
c: 12.38 synodic months in a year 365.25/29.5
d: 13.38 sidereal months in a year 365.25/27.3
D. Maybe first "regular" pattern noticed because it is relatively quick.
VI. Language and notional systems
A. language is spoken. writing is more permanent. There are no linguistic transcriptions of the Paleolithic nor are there videotapes
B. Notational system may be of something other language.
1. pictures, dance notation, symbolic information (counts of things).
a. problems of interpretation (elephants and "P"). How do we read it? Order of strokes? Order of "writing"? How do we know what something means?
b. all these need to be considered in interpreting the following information.
VI. Blanchard (Aurignacian) bone
A. bone is just large enough to be held in the palm of the hand while be worked on.
B. Found in Dordogne in France
C. Alexander Marschak examined bone.
1. He decided that among the pock marks were some forms that appeared to have been made by different shaped points in a specific pattern. Checking under a microscope and shifting the light, Marschack finds pattern. CAN YOU SPOT IT?
2. He felt it could not be decorative since why would anyone making an ornamental decoration 1 and 3/4 inches in size would not use 24 changes of point to make 69 close marks. "THEREFORE" says Marschack "IT HAD TO BE NOTATIONAL". This is ALWAYS a dangerous kind of statement. If not x, then must be y
3. Why not linear? Marschack feels that the turning points are where the moon "turns" (i.e. it goes from waxing to waning or the reverse).
4. Examination by microscope caused Marschak to assert that there were several points used to make the marks and that the marks were therefore made at times that had an interval between them (i.e. perhaps daily).
1. material is highly subjective.
2. Why would one mark the bone with points that varied but are visible only under a microscope. Did early people have great vision?
3. Could meaning be different? Sure. Could be dance notation, could be nothing.
4. holds that the variation in marks are in fact made with the same tool, but variation is caused by turning the point. There is no reason, even they were the made with different points to hold that there is a space of time between each mark
VII. OTHER MATERIALS
A. Placard baton
1. originally presumed to have ritual functions. They first appear in the Aurignacian and continue with growing frequency into the Magdalenian
2. Markings are seen again by Marschack as lunar. Could they be ritual repetitions. Are they necessary exclusive - that is could the "ritual" repetitions be based on lunar patterns?
VIII Conclusions about Paleolithic Astronomy
Basically, there is little real evidence that any of the paleoloithic materials are actually astronomical in nature, but one must suspect that somewhere alongthe way people did begin to notice the sky and make use of it in a conscious way.
For more information click on "Ancient Egypt" above.
Ancient Egypt has been the site of much speculation about the stars. There seems little doubt that the ancient Egyptians were not only aware of the stars but were actively discussing them.
Before we can be aware of some of the interesting aspects of Egyptian astronomy we need to be aware of the fact that Ancient Egypt has a long reign. When Cleopatra looked back at the pyramids, she was looking back further in time, than we are when we look back at her. Hence it is difficult to abstract from one part of Egyptian history and apply it to another.
Additionally, we need to be aware that with a time depth of this duration, we must remember that the sky has shifted in some ways, most notably, the precision of the equinoxes. In early Egyptian times, the north star would have been Thuban in Draco the dragon, as ooposed to Polaris which it is today.
The Egyptians classified stars into "immortals" and "non immortal" stars. The "immortals" would today be called "circumpolar" That is they never set, or perhaps metaphorically "undying" or "immortal".
As a result, the west, where the stars set was associated with death, whereas the east was associated with life,
Answers to Assignment Two: Creation of a Calendar