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The Pleiades in the "Salle des Taureaux", grotte de Lascaux. Does a rock picture in the cave of Lascaux show the open star cluster of the Pleiades at the Magdalénien era (ca 15.300 BC?"

Authors:
  • vhs Gilching and Observatory Gilching

Abstract

The cave of Lascaux is famous for its prehistoric paintings and above all for is magnificent portrayals of animals in the "Salle des Taureaux". Although the animals receive a great deal of attention during the guided tours, the sign-like shapes which are also depicted, are mostly passed over. But the puzzle surrounding one of these figures might now have been solved, thereby throwing light on the painting beneath it. The group of spots floating above the back of the largest Aurochs might represent the open cluster of the stars - the Pleiades (M 45/NGC 1432; 1m5), which lie above the constellation of the bull (Taurus).
Article
In this piece, I extend Sarkar’s (2011) conception of transformative power to the conservation of dark (and starry) night skies. More specifically, I argue that the transformative power that dark nights bear warrants their conservation and is best understood in terms of the important intellectual, cultural, aesthetic, and (psycho-physiologically) restorative effects that they afford. This gives us a pressing set of reasons to combat the growing, global phenomenon of light pollution. To do so, I argue, we ought to preserve the few remaining dark refuges that we have left (what I term wildness regions) and synergistically re-wild (i.e., re-darken) urban and suburban environments. Synergistic re-darkening, I propose, can be achieved by (i) establishing interpretive (educational) “dark zones”, (ii) implementing bioluminescent lighting technologies, and (iii) strategically employing lighting design. Finally, and in order to enact a degree of epistemic justice, I argue that we ought to implement multi-cultural “co-learning” initiatives, which promote education pertaining to both Western, scientific and indigenous, North American astronomies.
Thesis
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Astronomy and religion have long been intertwined with their interactions resembling a symbiotic relationship since prehistoric times. Building on existing archaeological research, this study asks: do the interactions between astronomy and religion, beginning from prehistory, form a distinct religious tradition? Prior research exploring the prehistoric origins of religion has unearthed evidence suggesting the influence of star worship and night sky observation in the development of religious sects, beliefs and practices. However, there does not yet exist a historiography dedicated to outlining why astronomy and religion mutually developed, nor has there been a proposal set forth asserting that these interactions constitute a religious tradition; proposed herein as the Astronic tradition, or Astronicism. This paper pursues the objective of arguing for the Astronic tradition to be treated, firstly, as a distinct religious tradition and secondly, as the oldest archaeologically-verifiable religious tradition. To achieve this, the study will adopt a multidisciplinary approach involving archaeology, anthropology, geography, psychology, mythology, archaeoastronomy and comparative religion. After proposing six characteristics inherent to a religious tradition, the paper will assemble a historiography for astronomical religion. As a consequence of the main objective, this study also asserts that astronomical religion, most likely astrolatry, has its origins in the Upper Palaeolithic period of the Stone Age based on specimens from the archaeological record. The assertion is made that astrolatry is the original religion and fulfils the Urreligion theory. To end, the proposed characteristics of a religious tradition will be applied to Astronicism to ultimately determine whether it is a valid tradition that can stand alongside the established Abrahamic, Dharmic and Taoic traditions.
Article
Among the most interesting features of the provincial Roman veteran colony of Augusta Raurica (present-day Switzerland) are its sanctuaries, which were constructed during a period of profound cultural transformation. The current study examines the temples within their surrounding landscape and skyscape, to explore the possibility that their locations and orientations may bear testimony to the cosmological beliefs of the colony's inhabitants. The findings suggest that alignments with the star cluster of the Pleiades and the constellation Orion constituted a connective element between earth and sky and were used by the Gallo-Roman elites to reconcile agricultural work and seasonal festivities with new socio-political and religious requirements.
Chapter
For most of the Paleolithic period [or Old Stone Age, beginning more than ~21/2 million years before present (b.p.)], there are few materials that could be interpreted as relevant to human understanding of astronomy, even in the vaguest terms. Evidence for interest in the heavenly bodies has been suggested only for Australia (see §11) and for Western Europe during the Upper Paleolithic (70,000 to ~10,000 years b.p.). A critical summary of the European Upper Paleolithic is provided by Hadingham (1979) in Secrets of the Ice Age. Despite its provocative title and popular nature, this work reviews the results of modern scholarship about the hunters and gatherers of the last 70,000 years or so, mostly from Italy, France, and Spain. He emphasizes the difference of the environment of that time from any existing today: colder, wetter, but in some ways richer, with vastly different fauna. He discusses both continuities and changes among human populations, their tool kits, and other aspects of the culture. The people were Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or Cro-Magnon (Homo sapiens sapiens)—both much like ourselves in physical type and inherent capabilities. They were skilled in making stone tools and had some crude housing, at least in some areas. They depended heavily on game, and some became skilled (and perhaps overspecialized) reindeer hunters. Others depended on wild cattle, and most groups probably killed a wide range of animals. Gathering of vegetable foods was surely of great importance, although usually this must be inferred from sketchy evidence. Fishing was probably of some importance, with more lakes and streams than today. Most sites that were then along the coast, where we might expect some evidence of fishing and indications of whether it was based on use of good watercraft, are now sunk deep beneath coastal waters, which have risen many meters since the melting of so much glacial ice. It has been suggested that in some areas there were substantial attempts to control the animal populations and that some of the reindeer could be considered as having been at least semidomesticated. Similar suggestions have been made for horses.
Article
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The strong multi-symbolic archetype of the Pleiades functions as a worldwide astromythological system going back to Upper Palaeolithic Era. The Greek version of the myth seems to embody a wide range of environmental symbolism, as it incorporates various information and very archaic elements about: a) the periodicity of the solstices and the equinoxes, b) the fluctuations on the biochemical structure of Earth's atmosphere related to the global hydro -climatic phenomenon of ENSO, c) probable past observations of brightening of a star (nova) in the cluster of Pleiades, d) the primordial elements of the mythological nucleus of Atlantis' legend and e) the remnants of Palaeolithic 'proto-European' moon culture.
Article
Decades of research work done by several scientists all over the world since the beginning of the 20th century confirmed the idea, that Palaeolithic man looked up to the starry sky and recognized prominent patterns of stars as well as the course of the celestial bodies. Though sometimes highly speculative, the investigations made clear, that time-factored notations played an important role in the archaic cultures of Palaeolithic epochs (from 33,000 to 10,000 BP).* There are some distinct and detailed examples of lunar-, solar- and lunisolar-calendars sometimes combined with pictures of seasonality, mostly discovered on transportable bones and stones, but also on the fixed walls of certain caves. The investigations showed that in Palaeolithic epochs time-reckoning, in particular the lunar cycle, had been related to the pregnancy of women too (Figure 2a-d).** Recently I showed, that in the Magdalenian time (16,000–12,000 BP) man also recognized single and very complex star patterns, including the Milky Way: the Northern Crown in the cave of El Castillo (Spain), the Pleiades in the cave of Lascaux (France) and the main constellations of the sky at the same location.*** They were used by the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers for orientation in space and for time-reckoning. These star patterns also played an important role in the cosmovisions of archaic cultures. Together with the depictions of the course of the moon and the sun, they helped to organize the spatiotemporal structure of daily and spiritual life of Palaeolithic man. Now I present a rock panel in the cave of La-Tête-du-Lion (France) that shows the combination of a star pattern — Aldebaran in the Bull and the Pleiades — with a drawing of the moons cycle above. This picture comes from the Solutrean epoch ca 21,000–22,000 BP. It shows not only a remarkable similarity with the representation in the Lascaux cave, but clearly connects the star pattern with a part of the lunar cycle.
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