To fully appreciate the depth of the field of astroarchaeology, we need to return to the days when words were just songs and sounds. Millions of years before the first script was invented and the first picture was drawn, astroarchaeology was being used on the planet. Results from a scientific study was printed in Scientific American in August 1975. The article entitled, The Stellar-Orientation System of a Migratory Bird, illustrated tests to determine whether migratory birds recognized the sky. The important aspect is recognition, rather than cognition. The study showed that birds learned the positions of stars to help guide them along migratory routes of thousands of miles over open ocean.
What the experimenters determined was that the migratory birds learned their flight route by experience. In other words the previous generation would lead the next generation over the flight plan that they had taken before. Birds that were taken from their nests would not orient themselves to migrate, since they had not gone on the migration trip before. The conclusion was that the birds learned the star patterns in the sky. In particular they learned the polar star patterns. This has the added effect of requiring the birds to rationalize their trips.
Migratory birds have to distinguish between a stellar pattern at the Southern most point and a pattern at the Northern most point. Additionally, they have to distinguish the pattern based upon the time of year and the time of day. The circumpolar stars provide the orientation, while the non-circumpolar stars provide destination information. Without going into detail, it should be quite clear that human species "knew" the stars before they "knew" how to write. The millions of years as hunter gatherers would have taught the human species to "read" the heavens just as easily as they taught the birds and other migratory creatures.
As humans began to master the "wilds" they undoubtedly had to keep information which helped them travel the world. As an aid to memory undoubtedly they told stories about the various sights along the migratory routes. The better stories gradually became legends, while the very best became sacred dogma. The evidence for this evolution is abundant, with Hamlet's Mill by Giorgio De Santillana & Hertha Von Dechend being one of the best documentations of the process. Hamlet's Mill deals with traditions and myths that have a particular characteristic, which they interpret to be the cosmic mill. It is important to realize that the cosmic mill is the precession of the equinoxes which is a result of the wobble of the earth about the axis of the orbit around the sun over a period of 25,780 years today. This period decreases approximately 11 years every century, so that 2000 years ago the period was 26,000 years, and 20,000 years ago the period was 27,980 years.
This wobble is the ultimate cosmic clock, but it defines position more easily than it defines time. Like the seasons for migrations of birds and beasts, the cosmic mill has carried its own seasonal attributes. The famous Denderah zodiac treats the subject of the precession of the equinoxes as an eternal message which is the sacred manna from heaven. The precession has the disturbing effect of shifting the heavens so that the stars revolve around the annual change in seasons. We recognize the stars of summer as Sagittarius and Scorpio, and the stars of winter as Gemini, Orion, and Taurus. Thirteen thousand years ago, the stars of summer were in the winter skies while the stars of winter were in the summer skies. Human beings learned very early that the seasonal stars are good for many lifetimes, but eventually they cannot be used for migration. Instead, it was necessary to "correct" the positions of the seasonal stars in order to achieve a proper order to life on earth.
In the simple act of fulfilling the daily and seasonal needs of life, a Teacher of Righteousness was born. This Teacher of Righteousness is the raw instinctive recognition capacity of the physical organism. In the life of a bird, the learning process is essentially independent of the precession. Even an ancient human life did not need to be overly concerned about precession. However, when traditional educational processes were developed, it became clear that something was incorrect. Many cultures abandoned their older sacred sites as the seasonal stars precessed around the tropical year in favor of newer sacred sites. Designed within these sites were the code to determine the length of the complete precessional year, or more specifically the position within the Platonic year. That code is the essence of the legends and myths described in Hamlet's Mill.
Thus, it is on a wing and a prayer that we initiate this string on astro-archaeology. It is our hope to establish the sources of all the astronomically based divination systems of our modern world. If successful, then the view from the future where we stand today will not be so bleak as we look back into the past. Our ancestors we very intelligent people. They had to be. In their world, a mistake was an opportunity to be some other creatures lunch, or a chance to starve to death on some frozen tundra. Ritual was the most effective way to pass on the survival skills in a world where traditions fade with the dawning of each New Age.
If we could see the stars over head at night, how many of use could tell the time of day, much less the season of the year. Our magical gregorian Calendar has stolen that correspondence with Mother nature from our every day lives for the sake of Roman pragmatism. About the only time we ever even consider the precession is when we read an astrology chart. Many people look forward to the coming of the Age of Aquarius based upon the published zodiac houses. But, the truth is that the vernal sun will not sit within the boundaries of Aquarius for another six hundred years. It will begin to ride above the stars of Aquarius in half a century as it passes under the Great Square of Pegasus and the circlet of Pisces. Until the vernal equinox rides in the Water Carriers house, we will be at the pre-dawn of Aquarius.
While we wait for Aquarius to make its long trek across the heavens, we do have something more important to celebrate. Between 1997 and the year 2000, the vernal equinox has passed over the bottom of the Milky Way. This time is equivalent to a cosmic winter solstice. In the minds of the ancient people, this is the place where the sun begins to rise. It is the place where the souls of the faithfully departed are revered for their accomplishments. That reverence is the fundamental intent for which this thread has been established. As the days go by, the ancient system of seeing the heavens will unwind itself right here. To be ready for the ancient enlightenment, bone up on some ancient sites with the following bibliography. If you need an initiates view of the stars, try H. A. Rey's book, The Stars. Rey will suppress the ancient wisdom and myths, but in the process, you can learn to read the ceiling of our house.
Hall of Bulls, Magdallenian Cave Dwellers, Lascaux,
France, 20,000-10,000 B.C., as represented in
Aurochs in the Sky, Dancing with the Summer Moon, Franklin Edge, Society for Scientific Exploration, 1996
Coming Forth by Day, Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, 3100 B.C. to 400 A.D., as presented in
The Book of the Dead, E. A. Wallis Budge, Penguin/Arkana, London, 1989
Plato, Timaeus and Critias, Desmond Lee, Penguin Books, London, 1965
PC Bible Study, KJV reference software program, James Gilbertson, Biblesoft, Seattle, WA, 1993
The Stars, H. A. Rey, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1952
Hamletís Mill, Giorgio De Santillana & Hertha Von Dechend, David R. Godine, Boston, 1969
The Glorious Constellations, Giuseppe Maria Sesti, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1991
The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy, Jean Audouze & Guy Israel, eds., Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994
The Sky 4, Astronomy program by Software Bisque, Golden, Colo., 1992
Redshift 2, Astronomy program by Maris Multimedia, Ltd., London, England, 1993