Italian Archaeologists Find a rare solar observatory hewn into rock to highlight the winter solstice

Italian Archaeologists Find a Rare Solar Observatory Hewn Into Rock to Highlight the Winter Solstice

(Read the article on one page)

A group of friends surveying World War II bunkers in Sicily, Italy, uncovered something much older—a rock on a hill with a circular hole that was apparently carved into it through which the winter sun still shines the morning of the solstice. It is a sundial that has been dubbed the Stonehenge of Italy. Archaeologists who examined the holey stone say it dates as far back as 6,000 to 3,000 years.

Archaeoastronomy Professor Alberto Scuderi, a regional director with Italy’s Archaeologist Groups, studied the stone after amateur archaeologist Giuseppe La Spina and his friends discovered it on November 30, 2016.

Finally, on the winter solstice of December 21, experts determined that the stone was used to determine seasons and solstices. They used a compass, a GPS drone, cameras and video equipment to verify that the sundial worked.

"At 7:32 am the sun shone brightly through the hole with an incredible precision," Mr. La Spina told Live Science . "It was amazing."

Professor Scuderi completed his work on January 3 and was to present a report on the stone to the Gela Archaeological Museum.

The stone arrangement is near three prehistoric cemeteries—Grotticelle, Dessueri and Ponte Olivo. The closest town is Gela, on the southern Sicilian coast.

This rock-hewn tomb at Syracuse, reportedly that of Archimedes, is of a type found near the sundial in Gela, Sicily.

This rock-hewn tomb at Syracuse, reportedly that of Archimedes, is of a type found near the sundial in Gela, Sicily. ( Wikimedia Commons /Photo by Codas2)

“Making an archaeological discovery is in itself an important event, but to be part of one of the most sensational finds in recent years fills me with pride,” Mr. La Spina told the Local.

He added that this Bronze Age monument was special to him personally because he and his group found it near his hometown of Gela.

Mr. La Spina said the discovery of the sundial with its 3.2-foot (1-meter) diameter hole may mean even more archaeological treasures are there to be discovered. He hopes for new finds that will shed light on the distant past of his hometown.

The 7-meter-tall (23-foot tall) stone’s special ritual importance becomes even clearer in the context of the sacred ground upon which it was found. Around the end of the 3 rd millennium BC, there were burials nearby called grotticella tombs that were carved out of rock by people of the Castelluccio culture that held sway in Sicily.

La Spina and his associates also found a stone called a menhir at the eastern side of the sundial. They believe the stone was upright when it was taken there, but it fell at some point later. The menhir is 5 meters tall (16.4 feet) and in front of it is a pit.

The sundial stone and menhir have different geological compositions, which experts think indicate the menhir was imported to the site from elsewhere.

This is not the only stone with a man-made hole found so far on Sicily. Professor Scuderi said he found two others, near Palermo, that were made in prehistoric times.

"One lined up with the rising sun at the winter solstice, the other produced the same effect with the rising sun at the summer solstice," Scuderi told Live Science . "For this reason, I believe that another holed calendar stone, marking the summer solstice, may be found near Gela."

Featured image: The morning sun shines through the stone with the hole, an event marking the beginning of winter on December 21. (Credit: Giuseppe La Spina)

By Mark Miller

Comments

This may be kind of a stretch but is Stonehenge and this site the first calculators/computers because they can compute the movements of the sun?   I believe the anarythka mechanism is considered one.. I wonder if the site can calculate more?

Troy Mobley

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Kalash girls with traditional clothing.
The Kalash (known also as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article