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Stone Alignments In Subsaharan Africa

Megalithic sites are found everywhere; many were apparently used for calendar reckoning. Although numerous megalithic circles and other arrangements are known in Africa, particularly Ethiopia, astronomy does not seem to have been a primary objective of African sites. Now, however, a stone alignment in northwestern Kenya called Namoratunga has been found with unmistakable astronomical overtones. At Namoratunga, 19 large basalt pillars are arranged in rows forming a suggestive pattern. Since the site is dated at approximately 300 B.C., archeologists have taken sightings on seven prominent stars as they would have appeared during this period. (The azimuths of some of these stars had changed by as much as 12 in 2,200 years.) The stars chosen are those employed by Eastern Cushites, the present inhabitants of the region, in calculating their rather sophisticated calendar. Pairs and frequently triads of these pillars line up very accurately (to less than 1) with the seven key stars. The people occupying this part of Kenya about 300 B.C., therefore, probably possessed detailed astronomical information.

(Lynch, B.M., and Robbins, L.H.; "Namoratunga: The First Archaeoastronomical Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa," Science, 200:766, 1978.)

Comment. This astronomical sophistication is consistent with the celestial knowledge of the Dogon tribe mentioned in the controversial book: The Sirius Mystery. For more on African megalithic sites, see our Handbook: Ancient Man. Description here.

Basalt pillar alignment at Namoratunga II
Basalt pillar alignment at Namoratunga II

From Science Frontiers #4, July 1978. 1978-2000 William R. Corliss

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  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
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