Archaeoastronomy is a relatively new scientific discipline, which as the name implies combines archaeology and astronomy, particularly in the study of ancient megalithic monuments and their possible alignment with various celestial bodies.
Arguably the most famous example is Stonehenge, but our globe is littered with ancient monuments incorporating solar, lunar or astral alignments. Not all are as impressive or accessible as Stonehenge, Callanish or Newgrange but in remote places such as Nabta Playa or Fajada Butte (see Hadingham[1308.152]).
The subject was initially considered by some to be a ‘fringe’ topic, but in 1999 Clive Ruggles was appointed Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester(a) and is the author of the encyclopedic Ancient Astronomy.
The University of Maryland has had a Center for Archaeoastronomy since 1978(c).
The subject has never been central to Atlantis studies, but has hovered in the background, with writers such a Egerton Sykes(b) and Graham Hancock who employed aspects of the discipline in their publications.
Giulio Magli (1964- ) is an Italian archaeaostronomer with a website in English(e) dedicated to the application of the discipline in Egypt. In 2013, Magli proposed that aspects of the Göbleki Tepe site are related to the recent appearance of Sirius in the night sky around 9300 BC(f) . Andrew Collins and Rodney Hale argue against this interpretation(g) , which is perhaps understandable as they support a linkage with the Cygnus constellation. A 2004 paper by Magli, on precessional effects in ancient astronomy(h) , has recently been applied by Lenie Reedijk to her contention that the Maltese temples were oriented to Sirius.
A further application of the discipline was employed by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis who used it to interpret the carved symbols at Göbekli Tepe. In a 2017 paper(d) they concluded that the pillars there were used to record meteor showers and cometary encounters. They believe that one such encounter involved the explosion or impact of part of Encke’s Comet around 13,000 years ago, which triggered the Younger Dryas Event that kick-started the Neolithic Revolution.*Scientists who have worked on the site responded critically (i), which in turn evoked further comments from Sweatman and Tsikritsis(j).*
Sweatman later expanded their theory in his book Prehistory Decoded .
Archaeoastronomy is one of only a few dozen words with four consecutive vowels.
(j) https://www.academia.edu/33931844/MORE_THAN_A_VULTURE_A_RESPONSE_TO_SWEATMAN_AND_TSIKRITSIS (See end of paper)*
Scott Ogburn is an Adjunct Professor in the department of Landscape Architecture at Temple University, Pennsylvania. His interests include archaeoastronomy, the influence of astronomy on sacred architecture, as well as sacred geometry.
MUFON, possibly the world’s oldest UFO network have sponsored a lecture by Ogburn on the subject of Atlantis entitled Legends and the Sacred Architecture of Ancient Atlantis, touching on structures at the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, the Osirian Temple at Abydos, the Gateway of the Sun in Bolivia, and the ruins of Puma Punku(a).
Derek Cunningham is the author of a website(a) with an extensive amount of material devoted to archaeoastronomy. His core idea is that there existed in ancient times a World Map based on the the Cygnus constellation, echoing some of Andrew Collins’ work.
Included on his site is an article that somehow links a painting, allegedly a map, in the Lascaux Cave with a location in Viet Nam’s Gulf of Tonkin, which Cunningham describes as having “dimensions and geographical features similar to Plato’s description of Atlantis.” He later adds that “of all the various locations proposed, this is the only site that appears consistent with Plato’s description.” As a layman I found the article and the site in general, totally confusing, forcing me to lie down in a darkened room.
However, I cannot deny that Cunningham has put a lot of work into his site and he does have fans(b), but his ideas are too ‘way out’ for me.
His most recent ‘discoveries’(c) include an association of the layout of the Stonehenge complex with the Milky Way!
He has now extended his studies to the remarkable terraced walls of Sacsayhuamán near Cuzco in Peru. In a 2014 illustrated article in Popular Archaeology online magazine, he claimed that the angles of the adjoining ends or sides of the irregular yet tightly fitting stones have astronomical significance!
Cunningham, has now turned his attention to angles inscribed at ancient sites, which he now claims can be associated with astronomical features and events. His extensive article(e) on the Migration and Diffusion website deals with a great many numbers that I shall leave others to evaluate.
(a) http://www.midnightsciencejournal.com/?s=derek+Cunningham (offline Nov. 2017)
(c) http://www.midnightsciencejournal.com/2013/10/24/the-ancient-world-map-of-the-paleolithic-stonehenge-avenue-map/ (offline Nov. 2017)
Younger Dryas also known as Dryas III was a mini Ice Age that lasted from around 10,700 BC until around 9600 BC. It is named after a flower that flourished during this relatively short period. In Ireland the period is known as the Nahanagan Stadial and in Britain as the Loch Lomond Stadial. For about thirteen hundred years the glaciers had been slowly retreating until within a short time-span temperatures dropped and they began to advance again. The cause of this cooling is not absolutely clear. One view is that a sudden release into the North Atlantic of vast quantities of fresh water that had been contained by huge ice dams is assumed to have closed down the Gulf Stream, resulting in a twelve hundred year lowering of global temperatures. There is evidence that the change only took one or two decades. The same threat is said to exist today with the possibility of the melting of the Greenland ice cap.
The most recent theory, by Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith, links the onset of the Younger Dryas with the explosion of a comet over North America that led to the extinction of many species, the collapse of the Clovis culture(a)(b) as well as the creation of the Carolina Bays.
A 2014 paper(g) entitled Nanodiamond-Rich Layer Across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact at 12,800 Cal BP by Charles R. Kinzie et al, has developed further the idea of this event being associated with the Younger Dryas. In a similar vein is an article(h) from Megan Gannon.
*A recent application of archaeoastronomy by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis led them to conclude that the carved symbols at Göbekli Tepe recorded an encounter involving the explosion or impact of part of Encke’s Comet around 13,000 years ago, which triggered the Younger Dryas Event that provided the impetus for the Neolithic Revolution. Sweatman later expanded their work in his book Prehistory Decoded .
Kevin A. & Patrick J. Casey maintain that a globally catastrophic event occurred 13,000 years ago(l). The kernel of their theory is that originally the Earth had two moons that at some later point collided, producing our current Moon, while the remnant of the second one eventually exploded over North America kick-starting what we refer to as the cooler Younger Dryas period. They are adamant that it was not a comet or asteroid that caused the devastation, and so clash with the work of Richard Firestone and his colleagues.
In 2015 a paper constraining the impact date to within 100 years using Bayesian statistical analyses, now proposed as 12,835 -12,735 years ago(j).
Coincidentally, Professor Emilio Spedicato independently arrived at the conclusion that it was a cometary impact in the North Atlantic that was responsible for the Younger Dryas. Subsequently, when temperatures rose again it resulted in the flooding of vast areas of low-lying landmasses that in Spedicato’s opinion, included Atlantis, which he locates in Hispaniola.
Conflicting evidence regarding the possibility of the Younger Dryas being caused by such an impact is impartially outlined on the internet(c).
December 2014 saw Graham Hancock raising the issue of a cometary cause for the Younger Dryas and its possible association with ancient Egypt(f).
The November 2013 issue of the BBC Focus magazine (p.30) had a brief article on the impact theory, noting that the northern hemisphere saw a drop of as much as 15°C around 11,000BC. In the absence of a suitable impact crater there is still much scientific scepticism(d).
However in early 2017, further possible evidence of an impact at the start of the Younger Dryas was offered by a team led by Christopher Moore of the University of South Carolina, when they identified a distinct layer of platinum in the soil that coincided with the start of YD. Commenting on this anomaly Moore noted that “Platinum is very rare in the Earth’s crust, but it is common in asteroids and comets.”(i)
In early 2018, two papers were published online(k), reinforcing the YD impact theory and adding evidence that the event resulted in a conflagration that “may have consumed ?10 million km2, or ?9% of Earth’s terrestrial biomass.”
Ice cores from Greenland indicate a further cooling period circa 6200 BC that may be related to the abandonment of many Neolithic settlements during this period. Other periods of abrupt climate change have been identified from 3800 BC to 3500 BC and 2800 BC to 2000 BC.
The fact that Plato’s apparent date for the demise of Atlantis, circa 9600 BC, roughly corresponds with the current, best estimate for the date of the Younger Dryas is interesting but unfortunately not conclusive proof of any direct connection. In the absence of any supportive archaeological evidence, a linkage between Atlantis and the Younger Dryas will have to remain a matter of faith rather than fact. Interesting but inconclusive.
Recent discoveries in northern Sudan of dozens of skeletons, the majority of whom were apparently killed by flint-tipped arrows, have led to the suggestion(e) they were the result of food shortages resulting from the Younger Dryas that in turn led to warfare over diminished food availability.
*(c) http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climatedebate/ (offline Dec. 2016) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20130310032309/http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climatedebate/*