Mesopotamia – Sunshine Supermen

Chapter III – Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia has been home to some of the oldest major civilizations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians. Grouped together they are known as the Chaldean. It began with the rise of the first cities in southern Mesopotamia around 7,300 years ago and ended with the Persian conquest around 2,500 years ago. The achievements of these early astronomers, especially the Persians, and later Islamic, which I will include in this chapter, though not being significant until the seventh century A.D., were extremely significant to astronomy.

Tablet Of Shamash / historyly.com

By about 2,500 years ago, the Sumerian civilization was firmly established in Mesopotamia, during the archaeological period of Uruk. These early Sumerians saw the night sky as a blackboard on which the gods left cryptic messages. Their priests began to seriously and systematically observe the stars and planet’s movements, with a form of writing, known as cuneiform, also emerging around this time. The Sumerians would only practise a basic form of astronomy, but they had an important influence on the sophisticated astronomy of the later Babylonians, when astral theologies would give planetary gods an important role in mythology and religion.

Celestial phenomena, known as portents, have become linked to earthly events for millennia. Centuries of Babylonian observations of celestial phenomena are recorded in the series of cuneiform tablets known as the Enu‑ma Anu Enlil, a collection of nearly seven thousand portents dating back to about 3,500 years ago. The oldest significant astronomical text is carved into Tablet 63, the Venus tablet of Ammi‑saduqa, which lists the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years and show the first evidence of recognition that astronomical phenomena are periodic, and of the application of mathematics to these predictions.  All the portents were considered affairs of the state, since the priests believed that the gods used the sky to communicate great matters.

As such, the study of astronomy in most all ancient cultures became associated with omens, and within these Babylonian tablets the many omens were divided into four categories. Each named for the four gods (planets) under whose area they fell.

The Sin (the Moon) covered eclipses, conjunctions with fixed stars, and first crescents, which’s symbol represents the lunar first quarter, or the “sickle moon”, with its shape also representing the Moon itself, and, of Islam.

The Shamash (the Sun), were the observations of two suns solar haloes, and perihelia (the point in the orbit of a planet or comet at which it is nearest to the Sun).

Ishtar (Venus) listed the stations, risings, and first and last visibilities (what planets we can see with the naked eye). The time a planet becomes visible in the dawn sky (rising shortly before the Sun), to the time it disappears into the dark sky is called an apparition.

Adad (the Weather god), recorded a variety of meteorological phenomena, such as thunder, lightning, earth tremors and cloud formations. These tablets also contain catalogues of stars and constellations as well as schemes for predicting heliacal risings and the settings of the planets, which occurs annually when they briefly become visible above the eastern horizon at dawn just before sunrise, after a period of less than a year when it had not been visible.

The Ammi‑saduqa also tell the lengths of daylight measured by a water clock, a gnomon, and shadows, as well as the application of mathematics to the variation in the length of daylight over a solar year. Also listed was a complete list of the helical risings and settings of the planet Venus. Star charts taken from this time are inscribed in clay tablets and show three concentric circles, each one divided up by 12 radii, with each of these 36 equally sized divisions containing the names of the constellations. It seems even the Sumerians knew the precession (a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body), of the equinoxes (constellations), which is incredible.

To know about the precession of the equinoxes, where each constellation takes a turn at rising behind the rising Sun, (the observable phenomena of the rotation of the heavens), one would have to observe and take measurements, for thousands of years. Consider, the precession of the equinoxes spans a period of approximately, 25,920 years, over which time the constellations appear to slowly rotate around the Earth, (the observable phenomena of the rotation of the heavens), so how long could the Sumerians, and those before them, had studied and observed such events, one needs to ask. If indeed this was the case these ancient astronomers had already figured out one of the theories that Einstein would mathematically prove six thousand years later. That space does indeed perform the central function of time.

The precession of the equinoxes is where every 25,900 years the Earth’s axis of rotation changes. This slow change in the angle of the axis makes it appear that the positions of stars change over time, for example, the North Star today is Polaris, five thousand years ago it was Thuban, two thousand years from now it will be Alrai. The angle change causes the constellations of the zodiac to change relative to the spring equinox (April 21). In this precession the constellations appear to move backwards as time moves forwards, moving to the next constellation every 2,150 years.

Presently the Sun on April 21 rises in the constellation of Pisces. A few hundred years from now it will rise in the constellation of Aquarius, which is to say that every 25,900 years, each constellation will have had its turn rising in the east on April 21

Soon astrology, the idea that the position of the stars and planets could influence the fate of individual humans, by the differences in energy from the universe, began with the organization of the original 18 groups of stars into 12 constellations, where each became associated with a specific deity, for instance Orion was a shepherd with his sheep and his shepherds staff. The origins of much of astrological doctrine and method are found among the ancient Babylonians and their system of celestial omens that began to be compiled around this time. This system of celestial omens later spread either directly or indirectly from the Sumerians then, through the Babylonians and Assyrians to other areas such as India, Middle East, and Greece where it merged with pre‑existing indigenous forms of astrology. Babylonian astrology came to Greece around 2,400 years ago, and then around 2,100 years ago, after the Alexandrian conquests, this Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of deity astrology to create a diagram of the heavens showing the positions of the planets. This new form of astrology appears to have originated in Alexandrian Egypt, and then quickly spread back across the ancient world into Europe, the Middle East and India, where it still very much exists today.

As to astronomy, because a chapter further along discusses astrology, by 2,800 years ago, observations had become so organized that most all planetary movements were understood and observed. There are dozens of cuneiform Mesopotamia texts with real observations of eclipses, mainly from the Babylonian Era, that show they had the ability to predict eclipses of the sun and moon. Which gave no doubt that Babylonia was using highly-developed geometry as the basis for astronomical measurements. For example they arranged stars in “strings” that lie along declination circles and thus were able to measure ascensions (risings) or time intervals. They also used the star’s zenith, the highest point it reaches.

As to astronomy, because a chapter further along discusses astrology, by 2,800 years ago, observations had become so organized that most all planetary movements were understood and observed. There are dozens of cuneiform Mesopotamia texts with real observations of eclipses, mainly from the Babylonian Era, that show they had the ability to predict eclipses of the sun and moon. Which gave no doubt that Babylonia was using highly-developed geometry as the basis for astronomical measurements. For example they arranged stars in “strings” that lie along declination circles and thus were able to measure ascensions (risings) or time intervals. They also used the star’s zenith, the highest point it reaches.

In mathematics they came up with the idea of dividing up circles into 360 degrees, splitting up an hour into 60 minutes, and the same with a minute to 60 seconds, by using a sexagesimal system (based on the number 60 and relating to or reckoning by sixtieths). This simplified the task of recording very large and very small numbers. Under the realm of the Babylonian king, Nabonassar, around 2,700 years ago, there was a surge in quality and frequency in recorded observations, including the discovery of a repeating 18‑year cycle of lunar eclipses for example, which they called a saros.

One of many clay tablets unearthed from the Assyrian king Assurbanipal’s era (about 2,600 yrs ago), contained the vast number: 195,955,200,000,000. It is called the Nineveh number and is 60 times 70 to the power of seven. Working it out in seconds, it is a bit more than six million years. The time it takes for the earth to complete its precessional cycle (the regular motion of a spinning object) is just less than 26,000 years. Dividing this number into the Nineveh number, works out to be exactly 240 precessional cycles. Calculating the cycles of the planets and their satellites in seconds, each divides into the Nineveh number exactly. This is amazing mathematics at any time, let alone more than two and a half thousand years ago.

By 2,700 years ago Babylonian astronomy began to conform to present reckonings. A new calendar was then introduced that had 354 days, regulated into 12 months, alternating between 29 and 30 days. The New Year started with the appearance of the first new moon following the spring equinox. But this arrangement lagged behind the solar calendar by about 11 days so it was always falling out of time with the seasons. They solved the problem by noting that 235 lunar months made up exactly 19 solar years, so they decreed that seven extra lunar months would be inter-calculated every 19 lunar years to close the gap. This became known as the Nabunasir Calender.

Around this time the Babylonian astronomers also began to develop a new empirical approach to astronomy. They began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the universe and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the philosophy of science, and some scholars have referred to this new approach as the first scientific revolution. And was closely related to the fact most of these early astronomers were actually priest-scribes specializing in astrology and other forms of divination. This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Hellenistic (Greek) astronomy.

Around 300 years later, in the fourth century BC, the Greek, Eudoxus of Cnidus wrote a book on the fixed stars, with his descriptions of many constellations, especially the twelve signs of the zodiac, are suspiciously very similar to Babylonian originals. One hundred years later the Greek, Aristarchus of Samos, used an eclipse cycle of Babylonian origin called the Saros cycle to determine the year’s length. It is clear that by this time, many other Greek astronomers had a complete list of eclipse observations covering many centuries, and mostly all compiled from the earlier mentioned Sumerian’s clay tablets, the Enu-ma Anu Enlil, and from the relevant observations that the Babylonians had routinely made and recorded also.             

Around the same time, back in Babylonia, the astronomer/priest Kidinnu worked out the duration of the solar year to within 4min 33sec, which western astronomers did not achieve until less than 150 years ago. The Babylonians observed Halley’s Comet in 164 BC, and again in 87 BC, and determined that it passes the Earth every seventy-seven years.

During the rise of Islam, to assist in their observations, the Chaldean made use of an early rudimentary instrument called an astrolabe, invented by the Greeks in either the first or second centuries BC, and is often attributed to Hipparchus. (190-120 BC). It was effectively, an analog calculator, capable of working out several different kinds of problems in spherical astronomy. They also began to use an armillary sphere. The name of this device comes ultimately from the Latin armilla (circle or bracelet); since it has a skeleton made of graduated metal circles linking the poles, and represented the equator, the ecliptic, meridians and parallels. Usually a ball represented the Earth as the centre, such a sphere is known as a Ptolemaic, while the later spheres with the Sun at the centre were known as the Copernican. The armillary sphere was used to demonstrate the motion of the stars around the Earth.

While in its simplest form, consisting of a ring fixed in the plane of the equator, the armillary sphere was one of the most ancient of astronomical instruments. Slightly developed, it was crossed by another ring fixed in the plane of the meridian, with the first being an equinoctial, and the second, a solstitial armilla. Shadows were used as indications of the Sun’s positions, in combinations with angular divisions. When several rings or circles were combined representing the great circles of the heavens, the instrument became an armillary sphere.

Brass astrolabes on the other hand, were developed in the later Mesopotamia ages of the medieval Islamic world, chiefly as an aid to navigation but also as a way of finding the qibla, the direction of Mecca. Muslim astronomers produced an improved version of the Greek armillary sphere in the 8th century AD. Abbas Ibn Firnas (d.887) is thought to have produced another instrument with rings in 9th century, which he gifted to Caliph Muhammad I (ruled 852‑886).

The spherical astrolabe, a variation of both the astrolabe and the armillary sphere, was invented during the Middle Ages by astronomers and inventors in the Islamic world. The earliest description of the spherical astrolabe dates back to Al Nayrizi (892‑902 AD). Muslim astronomers also independently invented the celestial globe, which were used primarily for solving problems in celestial astronomy. Today, 126 such instruments remain worldwide, the oldest from the 11th century. The altitude of the Sun, and the right ascension and declination of stars could be calculated with these instruments by inputting the location of the observer on the meridian ring of the globe.

Astrolabe – Pinterest

In the Islamic world, astrolabes were used to find the times of sunrise and the rising of fixed stars, and were also used to help schedule morning prayers (salat). In the 10th century, al Sufi first described more than 1,000 different uses of an astrolabe, in areas as diverse as astronomy, astrology, horoscopes, navigation, surveying, timekeeping, and prayer.

After 700AD, Islam also advised Muslims to find ways of using the stars and on the basis of this advice, Muslims began to develop better observational and navigational instruments, thus most navigational stars today have Arabic names.

Influences of the Qur’an on Islamic astronomy included its “insistence that the universe is ruled by a single set of laws,” which was rooted in the Islamic concept, “the unity of God” (tawhid). There was also more respect for empirical data than was common in the preceding Greek civilization. Muslims were inspired to place a greater emphasis on empirical observation, instead of the ancient Greek philosophers such as the Plato and Aristotle, who expressed a general distrust toward the senses and instead viewed reason alone as being sufficient to understanding nature. The Qur’an’s insistence on observation, reason and contemplation, (see, think, and contemplate), led Muslims to develop an early scientific method based on these principles. For the Qur’an said; “And it is he who ordained the stars for you that you may be guided thereby in the darkness of the land and the sea.” There are also several cosmological verses in the Qur’an which some modern writers have interpreted as foreshadowing the expansion of the universe and possibly even the Big Bang theory. These include the verses, “Don’t those who reject faith see that the heavens and the earth were a single entity then we ripped them apart?” (Qur’an21:30), and “And the heavens we did create with Our Hands, and we do cause it to expand.”(Qur’an 51:47)

Though several texts attributed to Muhammad, show that he was generally opposed to astrology as well as superstition in general. An example of this is when an eclipse occurred during his son Ibrahim ibn Muhammad’s death, and rumours began spreading about this being a personal show of sympathy from God himself. Muhammad is said to have replied: “An eclipse is a phenomenon of nature. It is foolish to attribute such things to the death or birth of a human being.”

In observational astronomy, the first major original, Muslim work of astronomy was the “Zij-al Sindh” by al Khwarizimi in 830 AD. The work contains tables for the movements of the Sun, the moon and the other five planets known at the time. He used Hindu-Arabic numerals in his calculations, while Muhammad ibn Ja‑bir al Harra-ni al Batta-ni (Albatenius) (853‑929), discovered that the direction of the Sun’s eccentric was changing, which in modern astronomy is equivalent to the Earth moving in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. His times for the new moon, lengths for the solar year and sidereal year, prediction of eclipses, and work on the phenomenon of parallax, carried astronomers closer and closer to understanding the laws of relativity and which would not happen for another 500 years.

In the 9th century, Ja’far Muhammad ibn Mu sa ‑ ibn Sha‑kir, would make significant contributions to astrophysics and celestial mechanics, he was the first to hypothesize that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres are subject to the same laws of physics as Earth, unlike the ancients who believed that the celestial spheres followed their own set of physical laws different from that of Earth. In his “Astral Motion and The Force of Attraction,” he would also propose that there is a force of attraction between heavenly bodies, which foreshadows Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathi-r al-Fargha-ni, in 850, gave values for the obliquity of the ecliptic and the processional movements of the sun, when it is at its farthest distance from the earth.

In the 10th century A.D., Abd al Rahman al Sufi (Azophi) carried out observations on the stars and described their positions, magnitudes, brightness, and colour, through drawings of each constellation in his book, the “Book of Fixed Stars,” where he also mentions the “nebula.” He also gave the first descriptions and pictures of what he called, “a little cloud,” which is now known as the Andromeda Galaxy, and along with the Large Magellanic Cloud, are the first galaxies other than the Milky Way to be observed from Earth. He mentions it as lying before the mouth of the Big Fish, an Arabic constellation.

The astronomer, Ibn Yunis, used an astrolabe with a diameter of nearly 1.4 metres, and spent years observing and then recording more than 10,000 entries for the Sun’s position. Around 1000 the Persian astronomer Abu-Rayha-n al-Bi-ru-ni, described the Milky Way as a collection of many nebulous stars, and in 1019 observes and gives a detailed description of the solar eclipse on April 8 and the lunar eclipse on September 17, and then gives the exact latitudes of the stars during the lunar eclipse. He also calculates the distance between the Earth and the Sun in his work, the “Mas’udicus.” Then in 1006, Ali ibn Ridwan, as well as Chinese astronomers, observed SN 1006, the brightest supernova in recorded history, and left a detailed description of the temporary star.

The 11th century would become a landmark time for the Islamic astronomers, who diligently kept studying the celestial realm and furthered knowledge in most all of the sciences. In the beginning of the century, Omar Khayyám would compile many tables, and perform a reformation of the calendar that was more accurate than the Julian calendar, and came close to the Gregorian. An amazing feat was his calculation of the year to be 365.24219858156 days long, which is accurate to the 6th decimal place. Later that year the Arabian astronomer Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) discovered and recorded that the celestial spheres do not consist of solid matter, and that the heavens are less dense than air, in his “Book of Optics.” He also refutes Aristotle’s theory on the Milky Way by making the first attempt at observing and measuring the Milky Way’s parallax. It’s angular displacement due to it being observed from the surface, instead of the centre of the Earth, and the difference of it being observed from the Earth instead of the Sun. He determined that because the Milky Way had no parallax, it had to be very far from the Earth and did not belong to the Earth’s atmosphere. Then in 1054, Arabian, and once again, Chinese astronomers, observe the star SN 1054, which becomes responsible for the creation of the Crab Nebula, the only nebula whose creation has ever been observed.

The hits kept coming, when in 1350, Ibn al-Shatir, anticipated Copernicus by more than a hundred years, and by abandoning the theory of Ptolemy, that all axis are the same length, he provided new calculations of planetary motion, which provided the first provable model of lunar motions which accurately match observations. Around the same time, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya of Syria, proposes that the Milky Way galaxy to be a great number of tiny stars packed together in the sphere of the fixed stars, and that these stars are larger than the planets.

In the 15th century, Ali Kus-cu provided empirical evidence for the Earth’s rotation on its axis, and rejects the stationary Earth theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy.

In the 16th century, Taqi al-Din measured the right ascension of the stars at his observatory in Istanbul, using an “observational clock” in which he invented, and described as a mechanical clock with three dials which show the hours, minutes and seconds. And to think, all this combined knowledge that had been achieved up until this time, had been reached through dedicated observing of the universe, with the naked eye, and the use of mathematics.            

Up until the 17th century the Chaldean civilizations had a profound effect on astronomy and cosmology. They had the advantage of being some of the first humans ever, to study the skies and record what they were seeing, as well as having the advantage that their astronomers, scientists, and mathematicians had the freedom and security to advance along in their quest for seeking knowledge. Much unlike the West, where after the Greeks, Christianity would, more often than not, prosecute or murder an individual who was interested in science. Though there were many who would continue on from the Greeks in Europe, in most cases, they had to achieve this in secrecy and were supported privately.


Sunshine Supermen – Megaliths and Mounds

Adams Calendar, South Africa Realhistoryww
Adams Calendar, South Africa

Chapter II – Megaliths and Mounds

Megaliths are structures made of large stones by ancient cultures, without the use of any mortar or cement. As to not knowing what exactly their roles were, we can only surmise that they fulfilled both astronomical and religious functions, due to the astronomical significance of their alignments. In general, megaliths do not include structures built by developed and well expressed cultures like the Romans or Maya, and their pyramids, but rather the more ancient cultures.

Pyramids themselves were first used in ancient Mesopotamia as mud-brick structures known as ziggurats. Egypt would go on and build over 70 pyramids, with recent archaeological finds there and elsewhere, supporting the theory that most pyramid’s were centers of stargazing, worship, work, commerce, and social life rather than lone tombs erected on empty plains.

Pyramids continued to be used by the Greeks and Romans, and are found throughout the world, most notably in Central and South America, India and China.

Megaliths and mounds meanwhile are also found around the world. Especially in large areas of the Middle East, from the Turkish border, through Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Undoubtedly because of its large population at the time with agriculture blooming, the largest concentration of megaliths can be found in southern Syria and along the Jordan Rift Valley. Many of them are found to align with the summer solstice sunrise, and may have been used as a place to gaze at and track the stars, with their rock formations working like a kind of ancient calendar.

The oldest megalithic structure in the world, which we know of, is Adam’s Calendar, South Africa, (shown above) with some studies suggesting it could have been made around 75,000 years ago. It’s one of an estimated 100,000 such structures in the hills around Mpumalanga (Zulu name for “the place where the sun rises”) a province in eastern South Africa, bordering the nations of Swaziland and Mozambique.

But the majority of megaliths seem to have been erected during the Neolithic period, the final stage of cultural evolution and technological development among prehistoric humans, and the final division of the Stone Age. The Neolithic began about 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC) with the development of farming, and ended around 3000 BC. Overtaken then by the Bronze Age, which denoted the first period in which metal was used.

One of the oldest megalithic places of worship in the world, erected around 11,000 years ago, is Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey. Four stone circles have been excavated from an estimated 20, with some 3 meters high and up to 30 m across. The stones have a variety of carved reliefs and pictograms depicting boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions. Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, the people of the time hadn’t yet developed pottery or metal tools but managed to build this place with massive carved stones.

Gobekli Tepe, Turkey / Anadolu Agency

While at Nabta Playa, in Egypt, which will be discussed later on, stone circles, groups of megalithic structures, and alignments of upright stones, dating from about 4,500 BC, was a vast star chart.

Other notable Middle Eastern megaliths, include, Rujm-el-Hiri (3000 BC) at Quneitra in Syria, which is currently in the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights. An enormous megalithic monument consisting of several concentric stone rings made up of more than 42,000 basalt rocks, it resembles a giant target from above and boasts intricate stone arrangements within its circle. The stones range from 2.5 m in height to 4.5 m tall in the center.

Foundation Stones of Baalbek, Lebanon/ Hidden Inca Tours April/2019

The Trilithon of Baalbek, Lebanon, in the ruins of the former city of Heliopolis has some of the largest cut stones ever known to have been created by human civilization. At the base of the ruins of the Jupiter Baal temple are three stones, called the Trilithon, and each weighs more than seven hundred and fifty tons. Researchers remain divided as to who created these monsters.

Foundation stone – Temple of Jupiter

Many European stone sentinels, megaliths and stone groupings, also conformed to celestial alignments, which required skilled observation, measurement, and prediction. In some locations, such as Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire England, the massive standing stones, around 4m high and 2m wide, and weighing around 25 tons, had some astronomical purpose, and of course, used for ceremonies and rituals. As in most all other cases, these observatories were employed to determine the seasons, an important factor in knowing when to plant crops, as well as in understanding the length of the year. Stonehenge was built around 3000 BC and constructed to calculate the moment of sunrise and moonrise, over an 18.6 year cycle. By standing at the centre of the circle, one can face either the sunrise or the moonrise, and foretell the season according to its position behind the “markers”.

In the English Midlands, limestone monuments called The Rollright Stones; date back to as early as 4000 BC. The Stones consist of three major formations, constructed at different times throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Age: the Whispering Nights dolmen, the King’s Men stone circle, and the King Stone.

The Standing Stones of Callanish on the isle of Lewis, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, form a megalithic complex also based on astronomy. Built in about 3000 BC, lines can be identified to the moon, Sun, and stars, and seems to have been a huge lunar calendar.

Newgrange, in the County of Meath, Ireland, is a tomb hill, 76 m wide and 12 m high. It was built between 5500 and 3200 BC. Renowned due to its astronomic positioning: at the dawn of winter solstice day the Sun shines through its 18 m long main passage. Also in Ireland sits the Drombeg megaliths, formed into a circle that aligns with the sunset on the winter solstice. Human remains suggest the monument was used from as early as 1100 BC.

In Brittany, France, at Carnac, more than 3,000 stones have stood in careful rows since as early as 4500 BC. It is the largest collection of prehistoric hand cut stones in the world. Carnac’s megaliths cover the countryside, along with dolmens (tombs), burial mounds, and individual memorials. Some arrangements align with the stars, while local legend says the stones were once soldiers, frozen in place for all eternity. Other theories point to the sky. Also in France, The Grand Menhir of Locmariaquer, is one of the largest freestanding stones to have been erected anywhere in Europe and is a part of a wider site of significance in the area. It is estimated to have been erected over six thousand five hundred years ago. Though having fallen over perhaps a thousand years ago and now lying in four pieces, it is estimated to have weighed as much as three hundred and fifty tons and stood nearly twenty meters tall.

On the island of Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea, off of Spain, are the Talati de Dalt megalithic monuments, called taulas (Catalan for “tables”), and dated between 1000 and 3000 BC. They are visually very similar to Stonehenge, but are a mystery to what religious or astronomical significance they had. Another theory suggested they were centers of healing for the Talaiotic people who built them. Also in the Mediterranean, and submerged by around 7200 BC, a 12 m long monolith, probably weighing around 15,000 kg was found 40 m under water in the Strait of Sicily, south-west of Sicily, but whose function is unknown. Nearby, the megalithic structures on the nearby island of Malta are believed to be one the oldest in Europe, in particular the Skorba Temples, which were built around 4850 BC, while the Ggantija (giant), is a temple on the island of Gozo, a part of Malta, and dates back to 3600 BC. It is made up of huge limestone blocks with an innermost section, passageways, altars, carvings and libation holes.

Elsewhere, the eastern North American Native peoples, the Hopewell (200 BC-500 AD), and the Adena (1000 BC-200 BC), built huge earth mounds, many in the shape of an octagon as well as pyramid mounds which were square, rectangular and circular.

The pre-Columbian city Cahokia, beside the Mississippi river, near St. Louis, built earthen pyramids that still stand today. The largest one covers sixteen acres at its base and rises 30 metres, making it one of the biggest buildings of any period, and the largest in the United States before the 20th century. Many are burial tombs, though just as many are also thought to encode various sunrise and moon-rise patterns, including the winter and summer solstices, equinoxes, and minimum and maximum lunar risings and settings on the local horizon.

The “Big Horn Medicine Wheel” in Wyoming, USA, is a stone setting resembling an enormous spiked wheel. Historically on native Crow land, oral history from several indigenous nations sets the Big Horn Medicine Wheel as already existing before them, having been built by “people without iron”. It has been dated archaeologically to 3200 BC.

Big Horn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming/ by Airphoto NA

The Wheel is one of four or five astronomically complex wheels that are publicly known to exist in the Rocky Mountain region. It is of a type termed “Subgroup 6”, for its prominent central stone cairn surrounded by a stone ring, while two or more interior stone lines connect the stone ring to the cairn in the center. Smaller, less complex wheels may also have astronomical significance, such as solstice alignments and east-west orientations. The larger complex wheels are capable of tracking several different cosmic cycles, including the precession of the equinoxes, the Moon’s phases, lunar and solar eclipse cycles, and planets’ orbital cycles. These astronomical wheels mirror the north ecliptic polar region of the sky, and are useful as celestial grids to track changes over the millennia.

While in central and South America, megaliths run into the hundreds. The Calçoene megalithic observatory (the Amazon Stonehenge), erected sometime in the 1st to 10th centuries AD, in Amapá, Brazil, is a circle marked with 127 blocks of granite, and stones up to 3 m high. Other South American megaliths include The Chilla Pyramids, and the Banos Del Inca, in Ecuador, and the Huaca del Sol, in Peru.

While, 3,512 kilometers east off the coast of Chile lays the island of Rapa Nui, a remote volcanic island in Polynesia. The nearest inhabited land to it is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 km away. Rapa Nui has nearly 1,000 massive upright stone statues called moai. Created during the 13th and 16th centuries, the moai are carved human figures with oversize heads, often resting on massive stone pedestals called ahus. The largest standing moai was estimated to weigh at least 86 tons.

Other notable megaliths include Padang Hill in West Jawa, Indonesia. It is the largest concentration of megalithic stones in Southeast Asia, consisting of thousands of stone blocks. And the Diquis Spheres in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, a very unusual megalith in that it is made up of perfectly round stone spheres, some up to 16 tons in weight. While ancient, the exact timing of its building and culture, are unknown.

And finally Inuksuk Point, on Baffin Island, in Nunavut, Canada. Inuksuk Point is a group of over 100 vertical stone settings, which serve as navigation and reference points. The word inuksuk (also called inukshuk), could be translated as “somebody/something who acts on behalf of a human”. An Inuksuk in the shape of a person signifies safety, hope and friendship, which today has been transformed into a symbol of hope and friendship that transcends borders to reach people all over the world.

Inunnguaq at Rankin Inlet, Nunavit, Canada / photo by Ansgar Walk

Chapter One – Sunshine Supermen


Sunshine Supermen

By Joseph Peters

Started in 2010 ended in 2019


  1. Prologue
  2. Megaliths & Mounds
  3. Mesopotamia
  4. Egyptians
  5. Chinese
  6. India
  7. Greeks
  8. Maya
  9. Inca
  10. Aztec
  11. Nicolaus Copernicus
  12. Johnnes Kepler
  13. Galileo Galilei
  14. Isaac Newton
  15. Albert Einstein
  16. Astrology
  17. Modern Astronomy
  18. Spacemen
  19. Sun / Summary

Chapter I – Prologue

Today, astronomy is known as the study of objects and matter outside the Earth’s atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties. It is one of the oldest sciences, if not the first. From the beginning of time, all living things have been affected by what goes on in the sky, and since humans have been on the planet, the sky, especially the night sky, has been the most awesome and most mysterious aspect of our lives, as well as the most overwhelming. The earliest human, would perhaps stand up on a rock, in the quiet of a clear night and stare up at the panorama of the sky and probably feel so very small, swimming amongst the stars. Dwarfed by the seemingly, endless and uncountable twinkles of light, whilst standing agape with eyes open wide and bottom lip hanging open, drooling upon oneself. Or we’d sit around our campfire and tell stories about the night skies and attempt to decipher them. Shooting stars would be talked about for days, while we may have danced with the Aureole-Aurora Borealis.

Besides the vastness of the sky, there were always the Sun and the Moon as well. With both, so much larger and brighter than anything else that dwelled up in space. The Moon could be stared at for hours, while the Sun could not, though it was able to touch all living things with its heat. The Sun represented life, the Moon, no doubt reflection. It never gets boring for some reason when we stare up into the sky. We sense there is much going on, but to us it seems ever so slowly, while in reality it’s all happening very quickly.

From very early on, humans have sensed, felt, and seen the effects that the Sun and Moon seem to have on all aspects of life and nature, from the oceans to flora and fauna. We’ve probably always been extremely dedicated observers of the sky. But the majority of humankind’s concerns are what is going on in their individual life here on the Earth, and not so much what was happening on a daily basis in the heavens. Indeed the enormity of the sky, to most, had to have been very scary on some levels. The eclipses of the Sun and Moon themselves must have been both awe-inspiring to an early human’s spirit, and yet at the same time very traumatic. A lunar eclipse turns the Moon red as it passes in the Earth’s shadow, a partial lunar eclipse creates the image that part of the Moon is covered by the Sun, and the most fearful to humans was no doubt during a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks out the Sun.

There would come to be individuals who spent enough time staring up at the stars, watching the Sun and Moon on a regular basis, to notice that there was a lot of movement going on up there, with much of the movements happening regularly, like the time between full moons and the day and night. From very early on, watching the sky would become the responsibility of certain dedicated and patient individuals, sunshine supermen, if you will, with their observations becoming our measurement and concept, of time, and continuing wonder.

Time is forever moving forward, but we can only measure it in relation to other things that have a regular pattern, like the rising sun or swing of a pendulum. The earliest measurement of time would be the day. Which was easily calculated by everyone, the Sun rose and moved across the sky then disappeared, to be replaced by the Moon which would also move across the sky and eventually disappear. The earliest astronomers had no idea that, in reality the Earth was moving and not the Sun. Our next measurement of time was the month. The time it takes for one full Moon to become another full Moon, about 29 days.

The Babylonians would be the first to break up a day into twenty-four hours, with sixty minutes per hour. All numbers which are easily divisible by two, three, and four. The first clocks were simple sundials, using shadow, then came hourglasses of sand, with the first pendulum clock not appearing until the 17th century.

Besides measuring time, humans would eventually relate the sky’s actions into the need to understand their place and purpose in the universe as well. This need for a universal meaning to our lives does not need to be religious, for anyone should be able to sense and see that a cosmic perspective does give meaning to our lives. That somehow we are connected, and not separated like many would come to believe.

To study the sky, is to seek knowledge, for astronomy is not just a science about the physicality of the planet Earths place in the universe. It is also to seek an understanding of its beginnings, it’s future, and it’s time. It also has a human perspective, the study for truth, and from very early on astronomy would become intertwined with religion, from which would evolve cosmology, which can be considered as the study of the universe as a whole.

Historically, optical astronomy, also called visible light astronomy, is the oldest form of astronomy. What was observed in the sky was at first memorized and then eventually drawn by hand, by the individuals who patiently and diligently each night stood atop a monument and stared up into the night sky, recording in pictures or script of their methodical observations, for generation after generation. Astronomical artefacts have been found from much earlier periods than even our first civilizations. Early cultures, as far back as the Ethiopians, 17,000 years ago, identified celestial objects with gods and spirits. They related these objects, and their movements, to phenomena such as rain, drought, seasons, and tides. It is generally believed that the first astronomers were priests and shamans, and that their understanding of the heavens was seen as divine, hence astronomy’s ancient connection to what is now called astrology. At first these early astronomer-priests were involved with not only a primitive form of speculative meteorology, but also the attempt to read divine will. This was expressed everywhere and from all things, such as how the smoke rises from a fire, cloud-formations, the entrails of an animal, or the flight patterns of birds. These priests were also the first to develop the process by which this divine will, could be appeased, and that was through sacrifice. These early astronomer-priests were fed and sustained by the people, so that they could study the sky continuously, and would become the privileged few in the earliest civilizations. Besides creating ceremonies, feasts, timekeeping and rituals, they also were in charge of expulsion of all demons, diseases, and sins and thus, they took care of their community’s spiritual well being.

Before tools such as telescopes were invented in the 17th century, early study of the stars had to be conducted from the only vantage points available, namely tall buildings and high ground using the bare eye and then later, the armillary sphere, would become the prime instrument of all astronomers in determining celestial positions. Several of the planets have been known since prehistoric times, with the ancients aware of seven of them, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, mostly because these bodies are very bright, and they wander among the fixed stars, through the constellations. These were known to the Greeks as plane‑te‑s or “wanderers.”

In ancient times the sky was probably more respected than it is today, being so all consuming. Today many people go days without ever looking up. But long ago, the sky would have been the mother of all distractions. The Supreme Being would have been the Sun, for it represented the cycles of life, the staples of resurrection: life during the day, death when it disappeared and a rebirth the next morning.

The constellation Orion would have been next in importance. There were many names and interpretations of the stars of this constellation, including the Hunter, named by the Greeks. Though Orion was also known as “thief thrown to the buzzards,” in South America. The Pawnee of North America called the constellation, “the Deer,” and the Egyptians named it Osiris. Orion is found on the celestial equator and is the largest, most conspicuous and recognizable constellation worldwide.

The sky is overpoweringly magnificent, but as mentioned earlier, it brought out fear as well, and still does. This fear would be used by the early astronomer priests to their advantage, for only they were believed to be able to know what the gods expected from the people. Night after night they’d watch the night sky, trying to interpret what the gods were saying by their movements in the stars and planets, and at the same time allowing what they would find, to control nearly every aspect of the people’s lives, and to keep themselves fed, by sowing and harvesting at the right times. Unfortunately, their work, and themselves, were also often easily influenced by whoever was in power.

Old or even ancient astronomy is not to be confused with astrology, the belief system which claims that human affairs are correlated with the positions of celestial objects. Although the two fields share a common origin and a part of their methods, by using tables showing positions of the heavens, they are distinct. In early times, astronomy only comprised the observation and predictions of the motions of objects visible to the naked eye.

As civilizations developed, most notably in Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, Persia, Central America, India, China, and the Islamic world, astronomical observatories were assembled, and ideas on the nature of the universe began to be explored. Most of early astronomy actually consisted of mapping the positions of the stars and planets, a science now referred to as, astrometry. From these observations, early ideas about the motions of the planets were formed, and the nature of the Sun, Moon, and the Earth in the universe were explored philosophically. The Earth was believed to be the center of the universe with the Sun, the Moon and the stars rotating around it. This is known as the geocentric model of the universe. In contrast to ancient Greek philosophers who believed that the universe had an infinite past with no beginning, while medieval philosophers and theologians developed the concept of the universe having a finite past with a beginning. This view was inspired by the creation myth shared by the three Abraham based religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

While Islam produced some incredible astronomers, the bibles of Judaism and Christianity, contain only a few statements as to the position of the Earth, the universe and the nature of planets and stars. With Venus and Saturn being the only planets expressly mentioned in the Old Testament. The closest interpretations of biblical “stars” are, Kimah, related to the Pleiades; the Kesil, related to Orion; Ayish, to Hyades; Mezarim – the Bears (Great and Little); MazzarothVens (Lucifer and Hesperus); Hadre, the “Chamber of the South”, and Canopus, the Southern Cross and Centauri.

Over five thousand years ago, many individuals, in many different parts of the world, had gained much firsthand experience and knowledge about Mother Nature, and the duality she provided of destruction and growth. They were achieving a better understanding of the natural world by studying the stars and sky. Cultures around the globe, nearly all at the same time, became fixated on being able to forecast and keep time, to mark seasonal changes for the growing and harvesting of crops. And the desire grew to foretell, and to forestall, if possible, future events by sacrifice and ritual.

Much of ancient astronomy was all about timekeeping, and soon most all of the early sky watchers would develop calendars, with the first ones marking the seasons and rituals. All calendars of the world have usually been set by the Sun and Moon – measuring the day, month and year – and were very important to agriculture in which the harvest depended on planting at the correct time of year. The most common modern calendar is based on the Roman calendar, which divided the year into twelve months of alternating thirty and thirty‑one days apiece. In 46 BC the Roman emperor Julius Caesar instigated calendar reform and adopted a calendar based upon the 365 1/4 day year length, originally proposed by the 4th century BC, Greek astronomer Callippus. But as you shall see, there have been many calendars and much pondering about the celestial realm.

This essay hopes to record and share with you the incredible achievements attained by the amazingly disciplined sunshine supermen and gazers of the stars, up to the 17th century and the invention of the telescope, while before that time so much had already been achieved by simply using the human eyeball and mathematics. And afterwards, right up to the present day when the technologies of optics and photography would begin to share the stargazing.

I hope I am not diminishing the explorations of space that have been reached, or the nearly divine work that modern astronomers have achieved, and so have also included chapters on Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, because, though they were not all astronomers, through their combined genius, they would develop and put forth definitions and theories, to exactly what the sunshine supermen of past and present were and are, looking at. And to what they were looking for. So lie back upon a cool patch of grass and stare up at the night sky, or simply strap in and enjoy the ride.

Will be releasing chapters weekly. Peace Out for now.