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South India Neolithic sites – A training ground for budding astronomers?

Home » South India Neolithic sites – A training ground for budding astronomers?

A few megalithic sites of South India are enigmatic. Besides they do not fall into the widely accepted idea that small groups of primitive people living close to a town settlement lived here. Instead they suggests two things. Firstly, the megalithic primitives were curious about astronomy!. Secondly, they were able to construct observation structures to study the movement of the stars. Besides, they achieved this with the most rudimentary tools available to them. First, they chose natural slopes at the best angle. Then they created view lines to the horizon with the help of stones and menhirs.

Surprisingly, these megalithic astronomers preferred sloped viewing angles to avoid atmospheric extinctions. Certainly, fog and other obstructions can cause the extinction of star light. Finally, the careful placement of taller menhirs at the top of the slope and the smaller ones at the bottom suggest superior planning skills.  

Sone circles become obvious when vegetation is cleared

There appear to be multiple sight lines to observe the same astronomical event at some sites. Archaeologists are unable to explain the reason for this. Were these sites created for multiple observers to simultaneously study a celestial phenomenon? Did these megalithic astronomers tally notes after individual observations? Was a master guiding several trainees on principles of megalithic astronomy, at the same time?

Unfortunately, earlier reconnaissance expeditions had failed to notice the thoughtful patterns behind the arrangement of big and small menhirs. This is not surprising because of the complex patterns at one the sites. However, in 2011, Memon, Vahia and Rao discovered them in the Byse site. 

c. Sightlines between pairs of Menhirs , d. Sightlines from the central Menhir
A reason reevaluate the dating of Neolithic sites

The dating of these sites has also gone through a similar revision. In 1948, Wheeler assigned these sites to the period 1500 BCE to 500 BCE. However, Morrison used the carbon dating method to reevaluate the dating in 2001. Subsequently, he pushed the date of these sites earlier to 2140BCE to 1940 BCE. Similarly, early on, Wheeler had concluded these sites Neolithic burial sites. He reached this conclusion by noticing articles such as cist and urn. He had missed the fact that Brahmagiri site was an astronomical observatory. However, modern researchers began paying more attention to the circular stone arrangements around individual cists and large stone. Because of their training in astronomy, these researchers could notice tangential lines between these stone circles. Certainly these lines point to prominent circumpolar stars.

Emperor Ashoka chose the vicinity of the site in Brahmari for one his famous edicts. Besides this location is the southern most among Ashoka edicts. The edit here also points to the continued significance of this astronomy observation site, for at least two millennia before the time of Ashoka.

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