Week 2: Nabta Playa

Being as inquisitive as I am, I was intrigued by the archaeological site, Nabta Playa, when brought up during our lecture videos. We only touched base on exactly why Nabta Playa was so profound and exactly what the artifacts were that had been discovered, so I want to take a deeper look into those artifacts,  presumably at thee earliest known calendar circles.

The site was first uncovered miraculously when a group of scientists stopped for a short comfort break. It was there when they noticed potsherds and other artifacts sprawled across the ground. After unraveling, excavations showed that this would be the earliest known archeoastronomy site in the world. This fascinated me because I have quite the slight obsession with astronomy and astronomical events. After have learned that archaeologists have discovered such an amazing site, I had to research a little more about it and exactly what it was that it showed “us” now. Upon researching, I found that at this site, they had uncovered five alignments of megaliths (another term for a large stone).  Archeoastronomers began to draw lines along the alignments when they realized that the lines closely matched the direction of the sunrise on the summer solstice (Planet Quest). Why would this matter? Well first of all megaliths are not easy to build. First you have to move these very large rocks, then you have to carefully watch the sky and track stars as they move across the sky, and then finally these megaliths are actually carved which might have shown certain stellar alignments based on the shape of stone. In addition scientists have said that this may have helped Nabtians navigate and track stellar movements. This proves to me the people of Nabta Playa were very organized and had an abundance of skills. I feel as if their society could have been fairly advanced and if it were not for archaeological evidence or archaeologists themselves we would not have an understanding on how our world came to be what it is today.

“PlanetQuest: The History of Astronomy.” PlanetQuest Education. N.p., 2005. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://www.planetquest.org/learn/nabta.html>.


4 thoughts on “Week 2: Nabta Playa

  1. Like you I also enjoy learning about ancient astronomy and found the site Nabta Playa to be very interesting as well. My first archaeology class covered in great detail Stonehenge which has sparked my interest in archaeoastronomy. Similar to Stonehenge megaliths were present and the placement and organization of the large stones helped in determining time of year, weather predictions and each solstice. I also liked the website you obtained your additional information from. The fact that Nabta Playa is the oldest known archaeoatronomy site surprised me because megaliths are very difficult and time consuming to construct and the area was not normally inhabited long due to the dry plains. It was also surprising to note that it was approximately 1000 years older than Stonehenge. I also agree with you when you said how the people of Nabta Playa had great skills and organization. The idea that these massive stones were erected without the use of any heavy machinery, and the placement of each stone was done with such accuracy is quite an accomplishment. I will also reiterate what you finished with, thanks to the preservation of the site and archeologist we can see into the past and the lives of ancient civilizations.

  2. I was also very interested and intrigued by the Nabta Playa archaeological site that was brought up in our lecture videos. I am also very interested in some of the important artifacts discovered at the site, especially the earliest known calendar circles. The fact that this archaeological site was in fact discovered when a group of scientists stopped for a break and not because they set out to dig at that specific location. It was essentially such a great find because it turned out to be the earliest archaeoastronomy site in the world ever to be discovered. In my opinion, the five megaliths of stone that aligned to match the sunrise on the summer solstice were indicative that the Nabta Playa were an extremely intelligent and organized group of people that had the capacity to think about outer space and things beyond a simple lifestyle of hunter-gatherers and even established villages that didn’t worry about things outside of their own place. Also, It is very essential to notice that this assembly of stones was about 1000 years older than Stonehedge because it puts the Megaliths that the Nabta Playa built into perspective in terms of time periods when civilizations were starting to occupy their time and effort into understanding and interpreting the movements of the planets and stars and being able to incorporate the planets and stars into their everyday behaviors and customs.

  3. I agree that the Nabta Playa site is especially interesting and appreciate your extra research. When you described how it was discovered, I was reminded of the discovery of Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis remains. If I remember correctly from the video in my AN101 class back at Oakland, as soon as the research team stopped searching so intensely, one of the team members stumbled across the remains that ended up being one of the most profound findings in the study of hominids.

    The website you provided explained in more detail subjects that have caught my attention throughout the course. For example, when I initially read about the absence of a leap day and how it affected their calendar year, I found it to be very interesting how the year was considered 360 days with the five day period at the end of the year. On top of that, the absence of the leap day very slowly shifted their seasons. Considering that would take hundreds of years, it seems odd that anyone would notice. The existence of these very accurate and intricate megaliths show how advanced these earlier civilizations were to devise such methods of showing time. Astronomy on it’s own is a very fascinating subject, and we are still discovering new things today thanks to improving technology. I have infinite respect for those who occupied the Nabta Playa site and the things they were able to accomplish by observing the stars.

Leave a Reply