09 August 2006

Solar alignment? Surely not...

Alright, I'll admit to a daft idea and back it up with some daftness. Jacqui and I went up to West Weetwood the weekend after the summer solstice, and as we sat at Ketley watching the sunset, it became apparent that the 'rock shelter' is placed so that it faces in just the right direction to catch the last rays of midsummer's day. Now I know we were a week after, but I clagged the flash unit on a monopod, placed it in about the position that I think the sun would have set on the Solstice, and Lo! the light went straight(ish) up the central groove on the sheter floor. Prompting all sorts of thoughts about how the line dividing the two halves of the panel may have represented the boundary between two aspects of life, embodied by the waxing and waning of the sun, or it's movements alog the horizon. Pure conjecture, and hardly a sound theory, but it's testable. So next year, I know where I want to be on midsummer's evening. Sitting at the boundary of the upper world and the underworld, by the cracks in the hill where the lines flow into the rock, at the point in time when the light comes from as far to the north as it ever can. I know RA isn't supposed to relate to the sky and would never dream of being such a heretic as to suggest it does, but hey, I'm only reporting an observation ;) (Hi Hob! I've included the requested image. The other ones are here.)


george said...

Hello Hob , I don't think it's anymore heretical to suggest RA has astro associations rather than terrestrial or entoptic .But I don't understand what you mean by catching the last rays of the sun ,wherever you are looking at when the sun descends behind the horizon will be the place where the last rays etc. Have I missed something ?

george said...

Hello again Hob , Just done a quick calculation ,from Ketley I reckon the summer solstice sun to set 314 -315 degrees . Would that suggest that the "central line" should be the same ? If so all that is needed is to measure the angle of the line .Sadly the drawing in PRAIN does not have a northing ,but if we can find a pic with a compass or another drawing with a northing should be easy to check .

Hobson said...

Cheers George,

Next time I'm up there, I'll try and get a bearing. I tried with the digi compass on the gps, but it's a bit duff. I'd be tickled pink if find the line points 314ish, for that would suggest I'm not talking utter tosh. Even if it were so, it wouldn't be any kind of proof, as it could still have been carved at that angle by coincidence of course (it's not a totally straight line either).

I think what I was going on about rearding last rays was in reference to the last rays which appear before the sun starts heading south on the horizon. My ability to menatlly picture the movement of the earth and sun is poor at best. I need to get an orrery.

GraemeC said...

Like yer thinking here mr Hob.
Shades of the newgrange light box??
These kind of observations can lead to some informed speculation about uk rock art (just like other areas of prehistoric study)

I have begun to note several east-west 'alignments' between marked rocks in the north york moors clusters. Almost as if a rock was selected for carving because it was on a east/west line with another marked rock or cairn. I don't think there are horizon views involved but i need to check it all again.
I doubt there was a rock art 'bible' for the original carvers to follow but i do supect they were working within a set of beliefs and concepts which guided them to carve particular stones in certain locations (Like Ketley).
Its maybe time to start a list of these site 'qualities' to look out for?
As to what was actually carved on the rocks!!!!! still a long way to go on that one.

george said...

Hello Graeme , it surprises me how common cardinal point orientations are , in relation to monuments and RA. Solar and lunar stuff is to be expected but why the cardinal points? Unless of course it is coincidence .

rockrich said...

intersting stuff Hob, but can I ask, why on earth would anybody want to sit & look at rockart as the strong summer sun, sets gently on the horizon. Surely, strong low light isn't the best way to view motifs..... oh!!

sounds a goodun to me & await next year with interest.

GraemeC said...

Hello George,
Re Cardinal points.
Again i would suspect its aspects of their beliefs and symbolism being represented in the sites.
Obviously these have all been lost to us but think of the wealth of beliefs and concepts connected with the four directions held by native americans.

If Ketley is midsummer sunset, what about the carved rocks on the SE side of Chatton Hill? and the so called 'settlement' in between?
Ritual enclosure anyone?
Surely not!!

george said...

Hi Graeme , Re cardinal points I don't see how they would have had much importance as they don't fit any astro event other than equinoxes which would have been difficult to work out for little reward ,although it has to be said that it is possible to use the equinoxes as a rough guide for future eclipses. Usually when the "cardinal points" are mentioned they are really just general directions to the four corners , eastish etc.

Hobson said...

Cheers for the thoughts folks, I think Graeme has put it nice and succinctly when he mentions the apparent conncetion with belief systems. Ditto with the 'cardinal points' thing. I sem to remember reading about how neolithic houses often seem to display deliberate choice of locationfor deposition of artifacts connected to cardinal points, with north/death/wild, south/life/summer kinda things going on. Though I'm pretty sure I've got those mixed up. I think it's Steven Mithen where I read it. So if that kind of thinking can be applied to dwelings and monuments, why not to RA?

George, "so called 'settlement' "
Don't get me started on that one! And I've never even been to Traprain Law ;)

For some american solar RA, anyone heard of the 'sun dagger'
It's a nice spiral even if it didn't align to owt.

george said...

Hi Hob , Quite a carving the dagger but like a lot of stuff in the Americas it has big claims for alignments that don't exist, e.g. Bighorn Medicine wheel , Caracol at Chitzen Itza .It's a shame as it detracts from the few sites that appear to have genuine quite precise alignments. As far as cardinal points and RA are concerned two of the radials on the easternmost Buttony motif are close to 90 degrees and pointing roughly to cardinal points , along with the new motif at Craig Hill which also has a radial pointing due east they are the only ones I have noted all the others are random directions. "so called settlement" wisna me .