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Cave Art Reveals Advanced Prehistoric Astronomy

The ‘precession of the equinoxes’ is the astronomical phenomenon that gives us the so-called astrological ages, where the point of the spring equinox appears to move slowly backward through the zodiac at the rate of one sign (i.e., the age of Aquarius) about every 2,150 years. This is due to a slow wobble of the Earth’s axis that takes almost 26,000 years to circle the zodiac. It is obvious that the detection of any such movement would require centuries of close, disciplined, and continuous observation—something which, orthodox science maintains, would have been beyond the capability of any primitive ancient society. The Greek astronomer Hipparchus discovered ‘precession,’ according to mainstream academic science, no earlier than 190 BC and not everyone accepts that even Hipparchus knew about the precession.

If you could show that long before the Greeks, ‘primitive people’ knew about ‘precession,’ you could make a very strong case for the existence of advanced science in pre-history, something that orthodoxy has consistently, and emphatically, denied. Nevertheless, groundbreaking new research on very ancient cave paintings makes exactly the point—that indeed, ancient people had an advanced knowledge of astronomy.

According to the University of Edinburg press release announcing the new study, the artworks at sites across Europe are not simply depictions of wild animals, as was previously thought. Instead, analysis shows, the animal symbols represent star constellations in the night sky and are used to represent dates and mark events such as comet strikes. They reveal that, perhaps as far back as 40,000 years ago, humans kept track of time using knowledge of how the position of the stars slowly changes over thousands of years. The findings suggest that long before the Greeks, ancient people understood the precession of the equinoxes.

Around the time that Neanderthals became extinct, and perhaps before humankind settled in Western Europe, people could define dates to within 250 years, the study shows. The findings indicate that the astronomical insights of ancient people were far greater than previously believed. Their knowledge, in fact, may have aided navigation of the open seas, with implications for our understanding of prehistoric human migration.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Kent studied details of Paleolithic and Neolithic art featuring animal symbols at sites in Turkey, Spain, France, and Germany. They found all the sites used the same method of date keeping based on sophisticated astronomy, even though the art was separated in time by tens of thousands of years.

Researchers clarified earlier findings from a study of stone carvings at one of these sites—Gobekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey—that is interpreted as a memorial to a devastating comet strike around 11,000 BC. This strike was thought to have initiated a mini ice age known as the Younger Dryas period.

They also decoded what is probably the best-known ancient artwork—the Lascaux Shaft Scene in France. The work, which features a dying man and several animals, may commemorate another comet strike around 15,200 BC, researchers suggest.

The team confirmed their findings by comparing the age of many examples of cave art—known from chemically dating the paints used—with the positions of stars in ancient times as predicted by sophisticated software. The world’s oldest sculpture, the Lion-Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, from 38,000 BC, was also found to conform to this ancient timekeeping system.

The study was published in 2018 in Athens Journal of History. Dr. Martin Sweatman of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, who led the study, said: “Early cave art shows that people had advanced knowledge of the night sky within the last ice age. Intellectually, they were hardly any different than us today.”

“These findings support a theory of multiple comet impacts over the course of human development, and will probably revolutionize how prehistoric populations are seen,” said Sweatman.

CAPTION: Shaft scene, Lascaux cave art in France, featuring a dying man and several animals. It may commemorate another comet strike around 15,200 BC, say researchers.