The Warren Field Pit Alignment on the Mid Winter Solstice


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 a new contribution to this debate. This structure, dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been re-analysed by a team led from the IBM VISTA Centre and the results suggest that the pit group may have acquired basic calendrical functions through observation of the repeated cycles of the Moon. The pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and the 12 pits are structured to track lunar months. The monument also aligns on the southeast 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 site may therefore provide the earliest evidence currently available for “time reckoning” and 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.  


Birmingham researchers working with colleagues from Bradford, St Andrews, the Scottish National Trust, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Murray Archaeological Associates have resurveyed and re-analysed the site and the results of this work have been published in the paper “Time and a Place: a lunisolar ‘time reckoner’ from 8th millennium Scotland” Internet Archaeology, July 2013.  Aside from the results contained within the paper staff at IBM VISTA have provided a virtual recreation of the site and the rising sun and this is reproduced below.


The Warren Field Pit Alignment on the Mid Winter Solstice



IBM VISTA and Birmingham
Eamonn Baldwin, Dr Eugene Ch’ng, Dr Simon Fitch, Professor Vincent Gaffney, Emma Hopla, Dr Andy Howard, Dr Anneley McMillan, Eleanor Ramsey, Dr Ron Yorston


University of Bradford
Dr Christopher Gaffney, Tom Sparrow


University of St Andrews
Dr Richard Bates

University of Leicester
Professor Clive Ruggles


Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
Dr Dave Cowley


The Scottish National Trust
Dr Shannon Fraser


Murray Archaeological Associates
Dr Charles Murray and Dr Hilary Murray


V. Gaffney, S. Fitch, E. Ramsey, R. Yorston, E. Ch'ng, E. Baldwin, R. Bates, C. Gaffney, C. Ruggles, T. Sparrow, A. McMillan, D. Cowley, S. Fraser, C. Murray, H. Murray, E. Hopla and A. Howard (2013) 'Time and a Place: A luni-solar 'time-reckoner' from 8th millennium BC Scotland', Internet Archaeology 34 [link]


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