• Time and a Place: A luni-solar 'time-reckoner' from 8th millennium BC Scotland

      Gaffney, Vincent L.; Fitch, Simon; Ramsey, E.; Yorston, R.; Ch'ng, E.; Baldwin, E.; Bates, R.; Gaffney, Christopher F.; Ruggles, C.; Sparrow, Thomas; et al. (2013-07)
      Visualisation of the midwinter solstice viewed from the Warren Field pit group The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was 'created' by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit alignment, recently excavated in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), provides an intriguing contribution to this debate. This structure, dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been re-analysed and appears to possess basic calendrical functions. The site may therefore provide the earliest evidence currently available for 'time reckoning' as the pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and is structured to track lunar months. It also aligns on the south east horizon and a prominent topographic point associated with sunrise on the midwinter solstice. In doing so the monument anticipates problems associated with simple lunar calendars by providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the Moon, the asynchronous solar year, and the associated seasons. The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across the year, and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.