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Measurements of the orientation of Maltese dolmens show that they are aligned so as to run parallel with landscape contours and in particular with the flow of streams in the valleys below them. This result indicates that the dolmens served purposes other than that of mere burial places of the dead and that natural features of the landscape held meaning and significance for prehistoric people.
A well-built roadway from the early Viking Age at the Rösaring archaeological site in central Sweden is assumed by archaeologists to have been used for processions. The road is here examined in relation to its environment, the sun and the moon, the Milky Way and the rainbow. The aim was to extend landscape archaeology to include natural phenomena and their impact on prehistoric monuments as an aid to conventional archaeology. The play of sunlight over the road at noon was found to be particularly spectacular at midwinter and well-suited for enhancing the performance of rites which could have taken place at a large mound at the south end of the road, possibly in connection with the cult of the Norse fertility god Freyr.
Celestial events often exerted a great or even decisive influence on the life of ancient communities. They may provide some of the foundations on which an understanding of the deeper meaning of mythologies, religious systems and even folk tales can be based. These influences are reflected and may be detected in the archaeological material as well. There is good evidence that celestial (especially solar and perhaps lunar) phenomena played a particularly important rôle in the worldview of prehistoric Europe. To reveal the social and ideational significance of concepts relating to the celestial bodies in the prehistory of the Carpathian Basin, complex investigations on orientations of houses and graves, prestige archaeological finds and iconography have been accomplished. The results indicate ideological and/or social changes, which developed into a likely organized ideological system in large part of Central Europe including the Carpathian Basin by the Late Bronze Age. It might also be the first period in prehistory when people became really interested in celestial phenomena.
The rondels – circular earthworks of late Neolithic Europe – have a repeated form highly suggestive of deliberate design and symbolism. The concentric ditches are cut by two, three or most often four causeways at right angles. Here the authors investigate the orientation of the causeways in 51 rondels belonging to the Lengyel culture and conclude that they correlate well with the sunrise. The idea of a solar cult receives some corroboration from patterns on contemporary pottery.
The Nebra disc is one of the most sensational European discoveries of the decade. It appears to carry symbols of the sun, moon and stars wrought in gold on a flat bronze disc just over a foot across (320mm). It is not only very strange, but, famously, appears to be winking, initially raising the suspicion that it may be a hoax. Scholars have, however, claimed it firmly for the Bronze Age, and the debate now moves to the matter of its meaning. Here the authors offer a subtle interpretation that sees it as the shamanistic device of a local warrior society.
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