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Is there an astronomical meaning to Stone Age symbols?

A count of one

A set of units counted as one

A count of five items, for example: instances are given from three to twenty-two and thirty-three




A single day

Two days

Three days

Group of days

Week counts and sun signs

An entity; a whole night and day, a week, a month, a quarter

Half a whole

Three diamond shapes meaning a count of three whole items, e.g. three days and nights

Four weeks comprise one month

Four quarters in a year, four seasons in a year

Days and units

The firmament, the vault of the heavens

The winter sun, a closely wound clockwise spiral

The summer sun, a loosely wound anti-clockwise spiral

The equinox, spring and autumn

The firmament
Moon symbols, directions and compass points

A full moon

A new moon

Midday, noon, sky

Dawn and dusk

Start and finish of a statement

Full Moon

Parallel lines indicating a route to be followed;
An alignment;
The stated direction

A particular direction or bearing alignment

A statement of eight or sixteen directions, the sense of every point of the compass

Directions etc

Martin Brennan's drawings

Of these symbols, Brennan says the following: "Megalithic art is highly abstract and seems to be intentionally restricted to nine basic geometric forms, here called primaries because they combine to form all other marks and signs."

"The primaries are shown in the first row of the diagram (1 dot or cupmark, 2 line, 3 circle, 4 quadrangle, 5 arc or crescent, 6 zigzag, 7 wavy line, 8 spiral, and 9 oval or elipse). Primaries are clearly distinguishable from each other, they recur frequently and have a wide distribution. This classification eliminates elements which are clearly compounds of primary elements. It also includes ovals or elipses, omitted from other classifications. Row two shows the principal ways in which the primaries form sets."

Columns two and three above contain many symbols which could be interpreted astronomically, and shows the diversity of style with which individual items were depicted. The sun and star-like symbols appear both at Brugh na Boinne, for instance at Dowth, and also at Loughcrew.

Kerb 15 at Knowth interpreted astronomically by N.L. Thomas

Kerb 15 at Knowth

Of this stone, Thomas says: "The stone is a unique statement; an exact 365 day, sixteen month, four week month, five day week solar calendar."

STELLAR SYMBOLS BY GEORGE COFFEY - "Newgrange and other incised tumuli in Ireland", Blandford Press, 1977 (1912).

Stars, suns and discs

These symbols are termed "stars and discs" by George Coffey, who explored the Stone Age monuments at the turn of the 20th century. These drawings were made at a variety of sites in Loughcrew, Newgrange and Dowth. Coffee was one of the first to recognise the symbols were inherently astronomical. Of the half-circle motifs he found at the different sites, he said they "probably represent a symbol of the sinking or rising sun." At Loughcrew, he noted: "Evidence of the solar cult is abundant at Loughcrew; rayed suns and wheel-like figures are plentiful."

He also said there was "no reason to doubt" that the cross-in-circle symbol was a sun symbol, "the equilateral cross denoting the main directions in which the sun shines becoming the symbol of the luminary itself."

Knowth sundial - is this the earliest sundial ever made in Ireland??
Heliacal risings - are sunwheel symbols at Dowth symbolic of the Pleiades?


GENIET: Visit this page for a very good and detailed exploration of the meaning of megalithic art.

All information and photos, except where otherwise stated, copyright, © Anthony Murphy, 1999-2015
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