Archaeology & History
Tombs in Portugal used as ancient telescopes
By T.K. Randall
July 3, 2016 · 5 comments
Passage graves like this have been found across Europe. Image Credit: PD - Sandpiper
Special structures enabled early Europeans to view the stars long before the invention of the telescope.
Researchers recently made the discovery while studying 6,000-year-old tombs in Portugal which featured long dark chambers known as 'passage graves'.
Looking up at the sky from inside these passages would have made it possible for early astronomers to view the stars earlier in the evening than if they were standing outside.
"The key thing is that a passage grave with its long corridor acts like a telescope that does not have a lens – it is a long tube from which you are looking at the sky," said astronomer Fabio Silva.
The stars and constellations would have held special significance for the people of the time and in Portugal the rising of the star Aldebaran would have signalled that it was time to begin moving their herds and flocks to the summer grazing areas each year.
"This kind of 'archaeoastronomy' highlights the fact that human beings have always been fascinated by the stars," said astronomer Marek Kukula of the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London.
"Sky-watching has had an important role in human society for millennia."
Source: Christian Science Monitor
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