BBC News Sci Tech
April 22, 1999
Prehistoric Moon Map Unearthed
A map of the Moon 10 times
older than anything known before has been
It has been identified by Dr Philip Stooke of the University of Western Ontario in Canada. He spends most of his time preparing maps of asteroids based on spacecraft observations, but he has also prepared detailed maps of the Moon.
What puzzled him greatly was that there was no recorded map of the moon older than about 500 years. "I simply could not believe this," he told BBC News Online. "I felt there just had to be an older map somewhere."
So he began looking in old manuscripts and history books as well as the records of excavations of the Neolithic sites of the British Isles.
Then he found one. It took the eye of an expert to see it for what it was. It was carved into a rock in one of Ireland's most remarkable prehistoric tombs at Knowth, County Meath.
"I was amazed when I saw it. Place the markings over a picture of the full Moon and you will see that they line up. It is without doubt a map of the Moon, the most ancient one ever found," said Dr Stooke. "It's all there in the carving. You can see the overall pattern of the lunar features from features such as Mare Humorun through to Mare Crisium."
Before this discovery, the
oldest map of the Moon was by Leonardo da
Knowth is already a major focus of research into understanding prehistoric man. Now it will become one of the most important scientific sites in the world.
"The people who carved this moon map were the first scientists," says Dr Stooke. "They knew a great deal about the motion of the moon. They were not primitive at all."
The passage tomb at Knowth
is estimated to be about 5,000 years old.
It is known that many stone circles and ancient tombs are aligned with the Sun but less attention has been paid to possible lunar alignments. This is despite the fact that at certain times the Moon can rise or set at any location on the horizon that the Sun can.
Investigations at Knowth
almost 20 years ago showed that at certain
During excavations, the stone
in question was named Orthostat 47. Its
The circular limb of the moon is not included in the carving. Dr Stooke believes that it may have been drawn on the rock with chalk or with coloured paint.
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