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No. 104: Mar-Apr 1996

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The pit-zodiacs

Schagen-Muggenburg lies 50 kilometers north of Amsterdam. The Muggenburg part of the town name is only a few years old. Before it was built, archeologists were allowed to explore the meadows making up the construction site. L. Therkorn, an archeologist from the University of Amsterdam, led the exploration team. The digs yielded artifacts going as far back as 300 AD, when this region was sparsely populated by farmers. However, if Therkorn et al had dug up only these old bones and pottery shards, we would not be writing this for SF!

For anomalists, it was the pits -- old pits that had been filled in and that seemed to be arranged in an intricate pattern that mirrored the star constellations making up the classical Greek zodiac. But this revelation didn't come until later. After all, pits are common in archeology. Often they contain just rubbish, sometimes human remains.

"But the pits at Muggenburg are different. There are 57 of them, each about a meter wide and deep, extending over about half a hectare [about 1 acres] They were certainly not used for storage because the level of the groundwater is too high. Nor were they used as dumps; archaeological evidence shows that they were filled in shortly after they were dug, and some have very little in them."

It was only when Therkorn mapped the pits did she see that they were not distributed at random. Connecting them as children do with dot-puzzles, she quickly recognized the constellations Taurus (bull), Canis Major (dog), Pegasus (winged horse), and Hercules. The pits were geoglyphs of a new sort, streching for more than 100 meters, sort of Nazca lines in Holland. About 500 meters from the 57-pit array, still another Taurus pattern of pits was uncovered.

The mysterious pits didn't contain much, but there were often a few animal bones. The Taurus pits yielded cattle bones; the Pegasus pits, horse bones; etc.; with the bones matching the zodiac animal in each sign. Therkorn surmised that the animal remains represented ritual sacrifices that were probably time-coordinated with specific celestial positions of the real stellar constellations.

The pit-zodiac story does not end at Muggenburg. At Velserbroek, over 40 kilometers distant, Taurus and Pegasus pit-patterns have been identified. These are dated at 600 BC -- 1,000 years earlier than Muggenburg.

The pit-zodiacs show astronomical sophistication unexpected in European farmers 2,600 years ago. And how did these "barbarians" learn about the zodiac of the "civilized" Greeks and Babylonians long before the Roman legions pushed north into Gaul? Of course, the mainstream archeologists will have none of this.

(Schilling, Govert; "Stars Fell on Muggenburg," New Scientist, p. 33, December 16, 1995)

Comment. Across the Channel in Britain, one also finds the equally controversial Glastonbury Zodiac, as seen by those soinclined in the arrangement of some natural and artificial geographical features.

From Science Frontiers #104, MAR-APR 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "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
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987