Saturday, July 29, 2017


 Russian stone circle purported to
be a sundial/moondial.

LiveScience article by Stephanie Pappas, dated October 15, 2014, announced the discovery of a combination Sundial/Moondial carved into a rock found in 1991 near Rostov, Russia. It has been provisionally dated to the Bronze Age. Found in the grave of a man who died in his 50s it is marked with round holes arranged in a circle.

"The slab is marked with round divots arranged in a circle, and an astronomical analysis suggests that these markings coincide with heavenly events, including sunrises and moonrises." (Pappas 2014) The astronomical analysis was done by researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronimical Research Center at Russia's Southern Federal University.
Pappas's article describes this discovery in light of a similar one found in the Ukraine, but unfortunately the descriptions are somewhat confused an which discovery fits which description is pretty difficult to determine. Perhaps they were assumed to be similar.

The circle of holes is described as being 0.9' (feet) in diameter. Once the researchers had decided that it marked sunrise/moonrise alignments they approached it as if it were a piece of astronomical equipment that could be used to predict events, or even carry out "research." (Seeker 2014)

As I listed in the headline for this posting I am very skeptical about these conclusions for a number of reasons. First; there is no information provided about how the original position of the rock slab was determined. Without such data it would not be possible to determine any alignments at all.
Second; the holes are anything but precise, they are not the same size or even perfect circles. Were they assuming the sight line runs from an edge of each dot, or the center of each dot, or from this edge to that center? If it were an edge the holes would have to be exactly the same to make alignments reliable.
Third; the diameter of the arrangement was given as about 9/10 of a foot. This small diameter means that there is much too short a sight-line to determine such precise data.
Fourth; the holes do not make a circle but are more oval in arrangement. Again, a considerable lack of precision makes any reliable results doubtful. These reasons illustrate why I am so skeptical about the circles of dots being useful as astronomical equipment.

So what could it have been used for? I am much more comfortable considering it to be a game or counting board for a number of reasons. Any game that involved moving markers could have been played and my criticisms such as size and shapes of holes, small diameter, and oval outline would not affect a game at all. Indeed, the small diameter would make it easier to use as a game board. And for counting, the user could move a pebble from hole to hole to indicate numbers of whatever is considered significant. So until better information comes along, I am in the thumbs-down column as to this discovery representing significant astronomical knowledge by these ancient people.


Pappas, Stephanie,
2014 Illuminating! Ancient Slab May Be Sundial-Moondial, LiveScience.

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