Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

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

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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

    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. 150,000-year palaeoclimate record from northern Ethiopia supports early, multiple dispersals of modern humans from Africa

    Lamb, H., Bates, C. R., Bryant, C., Davies, S., Huws, D., Marshall, M. & Roberts, H. 18 Jan 2018 In : Scientific Reports. 8, 7 p., 1077

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. 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: ResearchChapter

  3. Northern North Sea and Atlantic Northwest Approaches

    Dawson, S., Bates, C. R., Wickham Jones, C. & Dawson, A. Jun 2017 Submerged Landscapes of the European Continentalo Shelf, Wuaternary Paleoenvironments. Flemming, N. (ed.). Wiley-Blackwell, p. 187-210

    Research output: ResearchChapter

  4. The Quaternary evolution of the Lower Medway: new evidence from beneath the flood plain

    bates, M., Bates, C. R. & Briant, R. 2017 Between the Thames and the Medway: Archaeological excavations on teh Hoo Peninsula and its environs. Dawkes, G. (ed.). spoilheap Publications, p. 9-64

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewChapter (peer-reviewed)

ID: 67820884