Complex star maps of constellations from 40,000 years ago leave scientists in turmoil

The 40,000-year-old cave paintings attest to the use of complex astronomy. The ancient drawings, once thought to be symbols of prehistoric animals, are ancient star charts, experts have recently discovered.

“Early rock art demonstrates that humans had an advanced knowledge of the night sky during the last ice age.”

Scientific research has shown that humans possessed a complex knowledge of the stars and constellations more than 40,000 years ago.

As previously thought, ancient works of art found in many places in Europe are simple depictions of wild animals. However, the animal symbols represent the constellations of stars in the night sky. They also mark dates marking events such as the fall of asteroids, explains a new study published by the University of Edinburgh.

Scientists assume that the ancients understood perfectly well the effect caused by a gradual change in the Earth’s axis of rotation. The discovery of this phenomenon, called the precession of the equinoxes, was until now attributed to the ancient Greeks.

Scientists have determined the age of rock art by chemically dating the paintings used by the ancients. Then, using computer software, the scientists predicted the position of the stars at the time the paintings were made. This showed that what were once considered abstract depictions of animals can be interpreted as constellations, as they were seen in the distant past.

The Palaeolithic artworks reveal that, perhaps 40,000 years ago, humans possessed a knowledge ahead of their time of important astronomical events, and of how the position of the stars slowly changes over thousands of years.

Where they got this complex knowledge about space and the sky is not very clear.

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