domingo, 1 de junho de 2008

Archaeologists discover a “cosmic clock”

June 1, 2008

Overcrowded in their lower reaches they might be, but the Canary Islands still possess some solitary mountain wilder-nesses, places little visited thanks to their rugged inaccessibility, and which have hardly changed since they were frequented by the pre-colonial aboriginal islanders.

And traces of their presence are still turning up, often in the form of petroglyphs, enigmatic scratched marks on rocks and boulders which held some special significance about which we can only guess today.

The latest find is, say archaeologists, one of the most exciting. They are calling it a cosmic clock, a description guaranteed to get the imagination of any sci-fi fans racing.

But there are no flashing lights and strange dials. The reality, a piece of stone 44 centimetres high and 34 wide, would certainly disappoint them, but the experts are hailing the Summer Stone as a major discovery.

Found on the rarified heights of Cabeceras de Izcagua in La Palma, at an altitude of 2,140metres, on a site inhabited by the Awaras (as the original inhabitants of that island were called), it is thought that the stone was instrumental in calculations to mark the equinoxes. The stone has symbols of the sun facing north-east scratched upon it.

The system used depended upon the alignment of three piles of stones with a facing mountain, from behind which the spring and autumn equinoctial sun rose – and still does.

Strangely enough that mountain is still associated with sky-watching. The Roque de Los Muchachos is the site of a world famous observatory which houses one of the world’s largest telescopes.

An odd case of back to the future.


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