Stephen Guthrie has sent our group the following April 24, 2006 General Science link from Physorg.com
and an article titled
Researchers Unearths Earliest Western Sculptures and Astronomical Alignments in Peru
which is summarized there as follows:
" In one of the most significant archaeological and anthropological finds in recent history, Robert Benfer, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, has discovered the earliest astronomical alignments and sculptures in the round, which is a sculpture designed to be viewed from many directions and angles, in the New World in Buena Vista, Peru."
For our purposes, the most significant findings are these:
"While excavating the temple and sculptures, Benfer discovered several astronomical alignments at the Buena Vista site that suggest Andeans used astronomical signs and constellations to guide their agricultural activities. The lines incorporate points at the temple entrance, at the offering chamber, on sculptures, and on surrounding ridges that align with the rising and setting sun on days of astronomical significance, such as the equinox and solstices. For example, from west to east, the offering chamber aligns with a modified rock on an eastern ridge, forming a 114-degree azimuth and pointing toward the rising sun on December 21, which is the southern hemisphere's summer solstice. This date begins the season where flood waters rise, El Ni�o weather patterns are predicted and plants should be planted. On March 21, when flood waters recede, this same line points to the rising Andean constellation of the Fox. In addition, among the ancient statues Benfer excavated in Buena Vista is a personified disk that frowns at the sunset on June 21, the day marking the beginning of the harvest.
Benfer has been working at this site in Peru for the past four years but only discovered the Temple of the Fox in June 2004; the frowning disk was unearthed in June 2005. He said no one could have predicted to find something so old, but he added that other Andean temple sites he has studied contain perfect 114-degree alignments and similar astronomical features, which act as additional evidence to support his findings. "
These findings are discussed in more detail in the NSF Proposal (December 2004), Development of a Coastal-Valley Dual Economic System in Preceramic Peru: Project Description, by Robert A. Benfer, Jr. and ElizabethJ. Reitz at
http://rcp.missouri.edu/bobbenfer/pdfs/BenferReitzNSF04.pdf where it is written
"We obtained this alignment of the temple between the middle of the original, unaltered western entrance with a "false door" at the rear of the ofrendaria as 114 degrees west of north. Benfer found that lifting the barrel of the transit up from a line looking east established by the door and false door, caused the cross hairs to center on a rock to the east that had earlier been noted by the field crew supervisor, Duncan. The next day, Benfer turned the transit to the east and found it centered on a flat area between two rock spires, which he had noted on the ridge of the western horizon. Benfer e-mailed the 114-degree
value to an astronomer (Adkins) who reported back that the alignment would have signaled the Austral summer solstice at sunset on December 22, 4,200 B.C. The actual alignment of these events at 2,200 B.C., would have been 114.5 degrees; Benfer measured 114 degrees west of north with a transit that he only read to the nearest degree, unaware of the appropriate 114.5-degree alignment at that time. Figure 3 shows that the temple was set in the larger structure at a slight angle, an angle that was necessary to obtain the solar azimuth orientation.
Although the sunset would be very close to a platform visible to the west in the 114-degree line at any time in the archaeological past, this is not true for other features of the visible sky. Today, the Milky Way presents a different nighttime pattern than would have been visible from this latitude 4,200 years ago due to precession, the slow (26,000 year
period) rotation of the earth about an axis normal to the orbital plane. Because of precession, Earth's diurnal (daily rotation) axis points towards different parts of the celestial sphere during different epochs. Over time, this gradual shift has the effect of a slow but continuous change in the night sky's appearance as seen by an observer at a given latitude. So it was surprising to learn further from Adkins that the fox, toad, and llama constellations would have appeared on March 22, 2200 B.C., before sunrise just over the eastern mountain ridge, along a line defined by the rock, which inspection showed was modified. Three
platforms in native stone are nearby. March 22 would be the last possible time for planting in years in which floods destroyed previous plantings since rainfall would diminish dramatically after that date. The foxes would have been producing their kits around the end of December; their calls are used today to prognosticate fertility in the Andes (Howard-Malverde 1984). The appearance of the fox constellation in the eastern horizon after sunset March 22 would have signaled the end of the opportunity for planting."
Now of course, the archaeologists have not fully understood the significance of the azimuth of ca. 114.5 degrees which is a number similar to one I have been working with at the Sternhof site of Oesterholz in Germany and upon which I will be giving a speech on 27 May 2006 in Horn-Bad Meinberg to the annual conference of the Walther Machalett Study Group on Prehistory.
114.5 degrees (114.6 is actually closer), as I have discovered for ancient archaeoastronomy at Oesterholz, is the diameter of the firmament (114.6 x pi = 360 degrees), i.e. it is the diameter of the sky in the stars, where the starry sky is seen as a large circle or bowl above the Earth. The ancients knew this and thus measured the heavens using this angle.
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