'Cultural Astronomy' May Finally Explain the Secret Purpose of Stonehenge and the Pyramids
For thousands of years, mankind has marveled at the impressive structures built by prehistoric civilizations and puzzled over how and why they exist. Theories about the builders of the pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in southern England are plentiful, and more than a few involve beings from beyond our planet's atmosphere, but according to Space.com, there is a scientific discipline that may explain how Earthbound stargazers pulled off the fantastic feats.
The discipline is called archaeoastronomy, or "cultural astronomy," and it was developed a few decades ago in the 1970s by combining astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, and something called ethnoastronomy.
Using the discipline to explain how the four corners of the pyramids in Giza could be as little as one degree off from the cardinal directions, a study from 2001 proposed that the builders were using two stars in the Ursa Major constellation (Megrez and Phad) and a merkhet to situate themselves and align the structures almost perfectly.
In his article for Space.com, Nottingham Trent University lecturer Daniel Brown also points out that Stonehenge has been found to align with cosmic elements, and that in the '60s and astronomer found a way to predict eclipses using the structure, pit holes, and markers, but that doesn't mean that the crew that built it (or those who built the pyramids) had the same ideas that we do.
"It's not impossible, but at this point we are in danger of falling into a popular trap of reflecting our current worldviews, methods and ideas into the past," Brown writes. "Insight into mythology and relevant methods known and used at the time are likely to provide a more reliable answer."
Brown offers that a "better" theory to explain Stonehenge comes from a 2006 study that suggested that the pillars and nearby wooden circles were used to represent the living and the dead. With cultural astronomy, the idea is to look at the mystery from various angles to come to a more well-rounded conclusion.
"While it is easy to assume that prehistoric people were analytic astronomers with great knowledge of science, it's important to remember that this only reflects our modern views of astronomy," said Brown. "Findings from cultural astronomy show that people of the past were indeed sky watchers and incorporated what they saw in many aspects of their lives. While there are still many mysteries surrounding the meaning and origins of ancient structures, an approach drawing on as many areas as possible, including experiences and engaging in meaning is likely our best bet to work out just what they were once used for."