Around the Celtic world there are many stone monuments and carvings in rock made by people from prehistoric times. We are the direct descendants of those that constructed these monuments in the Celtic lands of north-west Europe. Ancient stones and tombs placed in a way that look to the stars and capture moments of astronomical importance. It is recognised that many stone monuments are aligned to the rising and setting of the sun and moon during the summer and winter equinoxes. Our ancestors clearly thought that the study of the stars could give them a clearer understanding of the world. They were right, for in seeking to understand the secrets of the universe and our own place within it, modern scientists look to the stars. Searching deeper and deeper into space for clues about the creation of our own planet and the development and evolution of life on earth.
Stone monuments and Neolithic carvings have shown the Celts to be skilled astronomers. As reported in an article in the Irish Post last year, according to archaeologists the ancient Irish were the first to record a solar eclipse 5,354 years ago. A geometric etching illustrating the eclipse is thought to lie inside Cairn L. This is one of the two large focal monuments on Cairnbane West outside Kells in Ireland’s County Meath. The carving of concentric circles and lines is at the back of the chamber of the cairn. Now new research from the University of Adelaide has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science which shows that the Scottish Callanish Stones on Lewis and the Standing Stones of Stenness, both dating from about 4000 BC to 3000 BC were constructed to align with the orbits of the sun and the moon. As reported in the Independent newspaper, by using Ordnance Survey data on individual sites the researchers found that the stones were positioned to connect with the path of the sun and moon at different points in their cycle.
These ancient people had gathered a precise knowledge of the cosmos that must have been gained from many years of astrological study. The placement of the standing stones indicates the spiritual importance of ensuring very accurate alignments. Although some of the secrets of these magnificent structures may begin to be revealed, the wider belief systems involving the constellations held by our ancestors will forever be a mystery. Their stone monuments remain magical and very special.