Ancient Astronomers Knew the Earth was Round

By the time old Christopher Columbus announces the world is round, this was old news to ancient astronomers
By the time Christopher Columbus announces the world is round, this was old news to ancient astronomers

To ancient sky watchers, Christopher Columbus was old news

Ancient Astronomy – Humans have been looking upward at the stars in the night sky for tens of thousands of years, wondering where it all began. Prehistoric humans revered the earth and heavens above and used the stars as a guide. Thousands of years ago ancient astronomers in China and India spent whole lifetimes staring into the vastness of time and space, cataloging the patterns of stars in the night sky. By the time Christopher Columbus announced the world was round, it was old news to ancient sky watchers in many regions of the world.

Greek Astronomy and Astronomers

Around the fifth century BC, Pythagoras announces, "The world is a globe".
Around the fifth century BC, Pythagoras announces, “The world is a globe”.

The earth is a globe (Pythagoras)

In the western world it’s believed the fifth century BC Greek philosopher and astronomer Pythagoras originated the idea of a spherical earth, but the possibility of this idea being borrowed from Egyptian or eastern sources exists. Two hundred years later another Greek, Aristarchus of Samos, affirmed the belief in the earth’s spherical shape. He also announced the earth spun on its axis and, like the other planets, revolved around the sun. It wasn’t until the third century BC that Eratosthenes, custodian of the library of Alexandria, used his knowledge of astronomy to measure with considerable accuracy the earth’s circumference and diameter.

Astronomers in India

Aryabhata (476–550 CE)was the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy
Aryabhata (476–550 CE) was the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy

Ancient writings show that ancient astronomers of India had ascertained the spherical shape of the earth by the fourth century BC. Verses from the Sanskrit sacred books called the Vedas written in 3000 BC refer to a sun-centered universe. A universe ruled by the sun, moon, earth, sky and dawn, all deities to ancient astronomers in India, with attributes to match their natural ability. By the first century BC, it’s clear ancient astronomers and many common people in India knew the earth was spherical in shape.

Chinese Astronomers

Zhang Heng believed the earth was round and taught this fact
Zhang Heng believed the earth was round and taught this fact

Chinese astronomy has roots at least 4000 years old and China is considered by most archaeoastronomers to be the oldest known star watching society on earth. Ancient Chinese pottery dated to 6,000 years ago shows scenes of the sun, moon and stars, even ancient Chinese records of the stars are depicted on bones and shells, but the oldest known evidence points back as far as 14,000 BC. Ancient Chinese astronomers were studying and cataloging the patterns of stars in the sky tens of thousands of years ago.

By the time Christopher Columbus announced to the western world the earth was round, this was old news to star watchers and astronomers in many of the most advanced regions of the world.

Watch this documentary on the History Channel about Christopher Columbus.

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Newgrange Builders Were Sky Watchers

Prehistoric Irish astronomers built sunbeams for the dead

This aerial view of Newgrange gives you an idea of the astronomical knowledge and tomb building skills of the ancient astronomers who built these monument
This aerial view of Newgrange gives you an idea of the astronomical knowledge and tomb building skills of the ancient astronomers who built these monuments

Ancient Astronomy – Archaeoastronomy

Just thirty miles north of Dublin stands Newgrange, one of the great astronomical wonders of the prehistoric world. Poised on a long, low ridge overlooking the narrow Boyne River, ancient farmers over 5,000 years ago built an oddly shaped temple mound more than 260 feet in diameter and 30 feet high. A wall of sparkling white quartz lines the river-facing southern edge of the mound, with an entryway in the middle guarded by a massive, intricately carved stone. This ancient house of the dead is more than a heap of stones gathered by prehistoric farmers to celebrate and remember the dead. It’s also believed to have been a cathedral to the life-giving force embodied in the sun.

The entrance to Newgrange mound
The entrance to Newgrange mound

The entrance leads to a passage sixty-two feet long, lined with forty-three stones, each taller than a man and weighing ten to twelve tons. At the end of the passage lies an intricate structure of massive rocks, some carved with symbolic designs, forming a cross-shaped chamber that rises into a vault over twenty feet above the floor. Set in the floor of each arm of the chamber is a large, flat rock with a shallow indentation carved into it, called a basin stone. It was here over 5,000 years ago bodies of the deceased were placed and once a year a slender beam of sunlight brought intimations of life to the remains of the dead at the exact moment of midwinter sunrise for seventeen minutes.

The woman here is bathed in sunlight from the Winter Solstice at Newgrange
The woman here is bathed in sunlight from the Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Newgrange Astronomers Built Over Thirty Houses of the Dead

Newgrange is the largest and most elaborate of three similar New Stone Age tombs built by ancient Irish farmers near this part of the Boyne River. This house of the dead is also just one of over thirty mounds in the region and predates the building of Stonehenge by over 1,000 years and Egypt’s pyramids by several centuries. A true monument to the astronomical knowledge and tomb building skills of the prehistoric sky watchers of Ireland. Newgrange and other mounds in the region stand as testimony to their desire to understand the mysteries of the universe.

Click on this link to watch a YouTube video called “The Cygnus Enigma”, on the discussion on the astronomical significance of Newgrange.

Documentary on the Cygnus Enigma Part 1

Documentary on the Cygnus Enigma Part 2

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion