Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Time and a place: a luni-solar 'time-reckoner' from 8th millennium BC Scotland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Author(s)

V. Gaffney, S. Fitch, E. Ramsey, R. Yorston, E. Ch'ng, E. Baldwin, C. Richard Bates, C. Gaffney, C. Ruggles, T. Sparrow, A. McMillan, D. Cowley, S. Fraser, C. Murray, H. Murray, E. Hopla, A. Howard

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was 'created' by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit alignment, recently excavated in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), provides an intriguing contribution to this debate. This structure, dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been re-analysed and appears to possess basic calendrical functions. The site may therefore provide the earliest evidence currently available for 'time reckoning' as the pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and is structured to track lunar months. It also aligns on the south east horizon and a prominent topographic point associated with sunrise on the midwinter solstice. In doing so the monument anticipates problems associated with simple lunar calendars by providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the Moon, the asynchronous solar year, and the associated seasons. The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across the year, and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternet Archaeology
Volume34
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Scopus citations

    Research areas

  • Pit alignment, Mesolithic, Scotland, Calendar, Lunar calendar, Time, Seasons

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. The Changing Landscape of Prehistoric Orkney

    Wickham Jones, C., Bates, C. R., Bates, M. & Dawson, S. Sep 2017 The Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Conditions for Subsistence and Survival (Volume 1) - Per Persson. Vol. 1

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  2. Rethinking human responses to sea-level rise: the Mesolithic occupation of the Channel Islands

    Conneller, C., Bates, M., Bates, R., Schadla-Hall, T., Blinkhorn, E., Cole, J., Pope, M., Scott, B., Shaw, A. & Underhill, D. Dec 2016 In : Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 82, p. 27-71 45 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. People and Landscape at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney

    Wickham Jones, C., Bates, M., Bates, C. R., Dawon, S. & Kavanagh, E. 1 Nov 2016 In : Archaeological Review from Cambridge. 13, 2, p. 26-48

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Implications of 36Cl exposure ages from Skye, northwest Scotland for the timing of ice stream deglaciation and deglacial ice dynamics

    Small, D., Rinterknecht, V., Austin, W. E. N., Bates, C. R., Benn, D. I., Scourse, J. D., Bourlès, D. L., Hibbert, F. D. & ASTER Team 15 Oct 2016 In : Quaternary Science Reviews. 150, p. 130-145 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Shipwreck evidence from Kilwa, Tanzania

    Pollard, E., Bates, C. R., Ichumbaki, E. & Bita, C. Sep 2016 In : International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 45, 2, p. 352-369 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 67820884