|14 November 2000
Oldest lunar calendar identified
What could be the oldest lunar calendar ever created has been identified on the walls of the famous, prehistoric caves at Lascaux in France. The interpretation that symbolic paintings, dating back 15,000 years, show the Moon going through its different phases comes from Dr Michael Rappenglueck, of the University of Munich. The German researcher has previously associated patterns left in the caves with familiar stars and constellations. He now says groups of dots and squares painted among representations of bulls, antelope and horses depict the 29-day cycle of the Earth's satellite.
"They painted the sky, but not all of it. Just the parts that were specially important to them." said Dr Rappenglueck. Below a stunning painting of a deer is a row of 13 dots, ending in a square. "These dots represent half of the Moon's monthly cycle," the researcher said. "One dot for each day the Moon is in the sky. At the new Moon, when it vanishes from the sky, we see an empty square, perhaps symbolically representing the absent Moon." Beneath a dappled, brown horse with a dark mane is another row of dots. This time there are 29 of them "One for each day of the Moon's 29-day cycle when it runs through its phases in the sky. It was a rhythm of nature that was important to these people." said Dr Rappenglueck.
Earlier this year, the German researcher identified a series of constellations painted on the wall of a shaft off the main chamber at Lascaux. The tiny pattern of the Pleiades star cluster can also be seen hanging above the shoulder of a bull near the entrance to the main passageway. We will probably never understand completely what Cro-magnon man had in mind when he painted the Lascaux caves.
Source: BBC News (16 October 2000)
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