Ancient carvings contain astronomical symbolism
astronomical significance of Kerbstone 51, the "Stone of
the Seven Suns", at Dowth
is one of the most beautiful Neolithic carvings known to exist
in Ireland. It is kerbstone 51, located on the eastern side of
the great kerb around the cairn of Dowth, and its significance
as an astronomical stone has never been doubted. It contains what
appear to be suns, or stars, with rays coming out from the centre,
and with the whole surrounded by a circle. There are seven of
these suns in total, six of which are contained within circles.
have been made to explain the meaning of these symbols
some say they are representations of the sun at different times
of the year, others say they represent celestial bodies such
as comets. One thing seems certain they represent heavenly
bodies of some form.
is a new theory as to the meaning of these symbols, one which
reveals a duality of meaning, and an ancient knowlegde of the
complex movements of the heavens.
the Pleiades, Spring Equinox and Precession
is to mythology, and particularly the ancient story about how
Dowth was built, which reveals an ancient astronomical symbolism
which may help to explain something about the meaning of the
'Place of Darkness'. The story comes from the Dindshenchas,
a collection of ancient stories about Irish placenames, and
concerns Bresal, who was the ruler of the time.
his time there fell a murrain on kine in every place in Ireland,
except for seven cows and a bull that increased strength for
every farmer in his time. By him is built the solid hill in
the likeness of Nimrod's tower, so that from it he might pass
to heaven, - that is the cause why it was undertaken".
The story continues to tell how Bresal's sister stopped the
Sun from moving so that there would be 'no night but bright
day' until work reached completion. Unfortunately, they committed
incest and the Sun went down . . .
men of Erin left the task incomplete, saying: ". . . since
darkness has fallen upon our work, and night has come on and
the day is gone, let each depart to his place. Dubad (darkness)
shall be the name of this place for ever." (Source: Metrical
position of the Sun in Taurus on the Spring Equinox in 3000BC.
In this position there would have been a 'heliacal rising' of
the Pleiades, or "Seven Sisters" at that time.
that there are seven "suns" on kerb 51, and that the
mythology about Dowth speaks of a bull and seven cows, it seems
likely that the site has some connection with the constellation
of Taurus, the Bull, which contains the open cluster the Pleiades,
otherwise known as "The Seven Sisters". This constellation
was very important around the year 3000BC, when the Boyne Valley
mounds were being constructed, as it contained the Sun on the
Spring Equinox, that very important moment of the year when
the Sun's path along the ecliptic crossed the celestial equator
heading northwards. It is the Sun's position among the zodiac
stars at this time which determines the current 'age'
i.e. the "Age of Taurus".
interesting phenomenon which occurs at this time is what is
known to astronomers as a 'heliacal rising' of the Pleiades.
This happens when the stars in question rise at the eastern
horizon but are quickly lost in the glare of the rising sun.
It is interesting to note that the Egyptians, and the Dogon
tribe in Africa, among others, used the same Dowth-like 'sun-wheel'
symbols to signify a heliacal rising.
of the 'sun' symbols on Kerb 51
double concentric circle on K51
these 'sun-wheel' symbols do represent the heliacal rising of
the Pleiades, it tells us something very significant about the
Neolithic people they were aware of the great cycle of
precession, the slow wobble of the Earth's axis which causes the
celestial pole to shift over time, resulting in the Vernal Equinox
point, that place where the Sun crosses the celestial equator,
moving backwards, or westwards, through the Zodiac over a huge
25,800-year period. This Vernal point moves just one degree (about
two widths of the full moon) every 72 years, and spends on average
2,150 years in each of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
interesting point about these symbols is the amount of strokes,
or rays, which appear to emanate from the sun symbols. There are
a total of 116 notches, counted on the individual sun-wheels as
follows (see diagram below): (1) 14, (2) 14, (3) 17, (4) 14, (5)
18, (6) 15, (7) 24. 116 days represents four synodic periods of
the Moon, the most basic breakdown of the sequence of the Metonic
cycle. If we take out the count for circle three (17 notches)
we get 99 notches, which could just be an indicator of the eight-year,
99 synodic lunar month Metonic period.
on the rear of Kerbstone 51 at Dowth. These designs are little
known about and contrast in style to the sun-like patterns on
the front face of the stone.
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