Sep 12, 2014
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Nabta Playa, Egypt, astronomically aligned stones

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Nabta, Egypt is the oldest known site with astronomically aligned stones. Credit: J. M. Malville (U. Colorado) & F. Wendorf (SMU) et al via APOD.

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Over one thousand years before the creation of Stonehenge, people built a stone circle and other structures on the shoreline of a lake that has since dried up. Over 6,000 years ago, stone slabs three meters high were dragged over a kilometer to create the site.

  • J. McK Mahille, R. Schild, F. Wendorf, and R. Brenmer, “Astronomy of Nabta Playa,” , vol. 11, p. 2.
      author       = {{McK} Mahille, J. and Schild, R. and Wendorf, F. and Brenmer, R.},
      title        = {Astronomy of Nabta Playa},
      journaltitle = {African Skies},
      date         = {2007-07-01},
      volume       = {11},
      pages        = {2},
      url          = {},
      urldate      = {2016-08-18},
      abstract     = {The repetitive orientation of megaliths, human burials, and cattle burials toward the northern regions of the sky reveals a very early symbolic connection to the heavens at Nabta Playa, Egypt. The groups of shaped stones facing north may have represented spirits of individuals who died on the trail or locally. A second piece of evidence for astronomy at Nabta Playa is the stone circle with its two sightlines toward the north and toward the rising sun at the June solstice. Finally, the five alignments of megaliths, which were oriented to bright stars in the fifth millennium, suggest an even more careful attention to the heavens. The "empty tombs" and deeply buried table rocks of the Complex Structures provide some of the greatest enigmas of Nabta Playa. The recurrent symbolism of the ceremonial centre involves issues that would have been of both practical and symbolic importance to the nomads: death, water, cattle, sun, and stars.},
      file         = {McKMahilleSchildWendorfEtAl2007.pdf:media/trismegisto/Vitamin/Documents/Bibliography/McKMahilleSchildWendorfEtAl2007.pdf:PDF},
      owner        = {trismegisto},
      shortjournal = {African Skies},
      timestamp    = {2016-08-18},
  • [PDF] P. A. Brophy Thomas G; Rosen, “Satellite Imagery Measures of the Astronomically Aligned Megaliths at Nabta Playa,” , vol. 5, iss. 1, p. 15–24.
      author       = {Brophy, Thomas G; Rosen, Paul A.},
      title        = {Satellite Imagery Measures of the Astronomically Aligned Megaliths at Nabta Playa},
      journaltitle = {Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry},
      date         = {2005-06-13},
      volume       = {5},
      number       = {1},
      pages        = {15–24},
      url          = {},
      urldate      = {2016-08-18},
      abstract     = {The Nabta Playa megalithic complex consists of two types of features: first are large stones, many of them shaped, placed on or in the sediments of an ancient seasonal lake bed that is now hyper-arid; second are large sculpted bedrock features underneath the sediments and associated with the surface megaliths (Wendorf et al. 1992). The astronomically aligned surface megalithic structures described in field reports (Wendorf and Malville, 2001) are identified in recent georectified 60 cm panchromatic satellite imagery of Nabta Playa, southern Egypt. The satellite images allow refinement, often significant, of the reported locations of the megaliths (Malville et al. 1998, and Wendorf and Malville 2001). The report that a primary megalithic alignment was constructed to point to the bright star Sirius, circa 4,820 BC, is reconsidered in light of the satellite data, new field data, radiocarbon, lithostratigraphic and geochronologic data, and the playa sedimentation history. Other possible archaeoastronomical interpretations are considered for that alignment, including the three star asterism (of Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka) circa 6,270 BC that is also implicated in the small Nabta Playa ‘calendar circle’. Signatures of other possible features apparent in the satellite imagery and a recent field study are also considered. Only a small number of the subsurface bedrock sculptures have been excavated. We recommend the use of ground penetrating imaging methods to illuminate the known but not yet excavated subsurface features. The problem of determining the astronomical intent of the builders of the megalithic structures is approached by considering the complex of features as a whole.},
      file         = {brophyrosen2008.pdf:media/trismegisto/Vitamin/Documents/Bibliography/brophyrosen2008.pdf:PDF},
      keywords     = {Nabta Playa, Egypt, megaliths, satellite, Orion’s Belt, GPS},
      owner        = {trismegisto},
      timestamp    = {2016-08-18},

Astronomy Picture of the Day

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5000 - 4000 BCE · 6000 - 5000 BCE · Architecture · Egypt

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