ancient skywatchers regulated their calendars and tracked days with celestial alignments, often sunrises and sunsets with targetted shadow and light features on equinoxes, solstices or cross quarters

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2015 seasonal cusps in GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, for Northern Hemisphere

(for Southern Hemisphere, substitute your cusp name on opposite side of the sun for each date & time)

Beltaine vernal equinox imbolc winter solstice
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summer solstice Lughnasad autumnal equinox samhain

Earth's annual orbit is The Master Clock because the common yardstick of our lives is the year. Years are divided by the seasons just as calendars are segmented by months. Mechanical and digital timepieces measure intervals that split into hours, minutes and seconds each spin of our planet on its axis. Yet, it is the earth's regular, rhythmic loop around the sun that standardizes our timeframe of reference, regardless of geographic distances separating us from our acquaintances or generational distances separating us from our ancestors.
Our planet moves around the sun in an elliptical circuit deviating less than a second from one year to the next. Together we proceed through 8 significant, yet invisible, thresholds within each orbit. These spatial milestones mark the beginning, midpoint and end of each of our seasons. Equinoxes, Solstices and Cross Quarters are moments shared planet-wide, defined by the earth's tilt and the sun's position on The Ecliptic along 45° arcs.
To ancient civilizations fascinated and entertained by the cyclical motion of the heavens, the ability to fix these cusps just to the nearest day was highly-prized, even sacred knowledge. With modern measurements and calculators much better accuracy is possible for determining these moments.
This grand octal in the sky is largely ignored by most modern societies. Equinoxes and Solstices have become little more than footnote mentions on occasional weather reports. Cross Quarters are all but forgotten, in spite of having been observed and celebrated by Celtic people for centuries.
Archaeoastronomy's goal is to understand how skywatchers of the past fashioned and refined systems for regulating their primitive calendars and for memorializing celestial events, both cyclical and unique. Often they relied on sunlight and shadow plays striking and passing across targets and designs aligned with Equinox, Solstice and Cross Quarter sunrises and sunsets. Sometimes the celestial cycles of the moon, Venus and Mars captivated their attention, too. However, knowing seasonal durations and transitions was vital to success in hunting migratory prey, planting crops and harvesting them. Archaeoastronomy draws on several scientific disciplines, primarily astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, psychology and epigraphy, the decoding of ancient inscriptions.
Astrology, scorned by today's technology-driven science, was integral to humankind centuries ago. Certainly, for research to yield credible results, the modern scientific method is essential. Nonetheless, myth was as dominant in ancient times as mindless mass media is today. Aren't both merely comfortable proxies for what's real? To diminish the contributions of illuminated minds of the past who shared neither today's tools nor perspectives is to exhibit an arrogant, technocentric bias. Scientists who now tend to devalue yesterday's legacies are only stoking the fires for the inevitable cremation of their own triumphs by tomorrow's wiser progeny.
For worldwide moments of Equinoxes, Solstices and Cross Quarters plus or minus a decade, see our almanac pages: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020.
Our orbital maps provide graphical, dynamic, up-to-the-minute countdowns for the next 8 seasonal cusp moments (Equinoxes, Solstices and Cross Quarters). my clock is an interactive mapper that allows you to input any date within the first two decades of the 21st century or shuttle the earth along its orbital path with respect to the grand octal.
Go to SEASONS for simple, instructive lessons on the astronomical mechanics of Equinoxes, Solstices and Cross Quarters and how worship of the birth, midlife and death of the seasons was rooted in ancient myth and ritual before adoption and adjustments by organized religion.
Our featured archaeoastronomical locations are found in 4 categories: USA - ENGLAND (actually the UK including Scotland) - IRELAND and EGYPT, presently limited to The Great Pyramid.
The Old News DVD is an eye-opening documentary about archaeoastronomical finds in southeastern Colorado and the Oklahoma panhandle, available for online purchase. We have several examples of fascinating equinox sunrise and sunset alignments that, in conjunction with ancient Celtic Ogham writing, boldly suggest an ancient Old World exploration of the New World 15 to 30 centuries ago. PATHFINDER is a Native American equinox site in southeastern Colorado being studied by researcher Carl Lehrburger.
We publish a list of LINKS to other archaeoastronomy resources and related topics online.
Your feedback and suggestions for new links are always welcome and encouraged. Just go to our CONTACT form.
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