Other African Cultures

Elsewhere in Africa, Cornell (1981) discusses the sites of Namoratunga I and II, which are in the territory of the Cushitic-speaking Borana tribe, near Lake Turkana in NW Kenya. These people are cattle-raisers, with a strong emphasis on warfare and conquest, and who have become dominant in much of this area. In the modern Cushitic calendar, lunar months are identified and named during half the year by risings of the new moon in conjunction, successively, with Triangulum, the Pleiades, Bellatrix, central Orion, Saiph, and Sirius. Then the second half of the year begins with the rising of Triangulum in conjunction with the full moon, and that half is measured entirely by relationships of Triangulum to lunar phases. It is alleged both that the year is 354 days long (12 lunar months) and that it is adjusted "to make the lunar year correspond closely to the tropical year," although it has "no relation to the sun" (Cornell 1981, pp. 201-203). Actually, the description suggests a basic sidereal calendar with superimposed lunations so that the lunations automatically adjust to the sidereal, and not to the tropical, year.

The Namoratunga sites are two graveyards, dated by 14C to the late centuries b.c. In one of them, huge standing stones outline the graves. In the other, on the slope of a mountain above a lake, with a clear view of the eastern horizon, 19 stone columns were formed into rows. B.M. Lynch and L.H. Robbins, who investigated the sites, assumed that pairs of stones marked alignments to the rising points of the asterisms of the Cushite calendar at about 300 b.c. and checked the rising azimuths. They found 12 alignments to the 7 asterisms. In nine cases, they found a match within 1 degree, and in the other three cases, not quite so close alignments were found. Aside from one stone only 15 cm high, all the other stones of the complex were used in one or another of the alignments. Because of precession, only four of the azimuths are still valid today. This remarkable result shows that a combination of ethnographic data about the modern calendar with archeological evidence can make the existence of deliberate archaeoastronomical alignments much more likely than would be possible with the alignments alone, and supply a fairly tight astronomical dating to the archeological remains. The match of the alignments with the modern calendar is also a remarkable demonstration of intellectual continuity over more than 2000 years.

0 0

Post a comment