Researchers conducting a survey of military bunkers left behind following World War II on the southern coast of Sicily, have discovered a rock formation that features a man-made hole in excess of three feet wide, which they believe was used to mark the beginning of winter approximately 5,000 years ago.
The Neolithic, holed rock was found on a hillside in November, 2016, six miles away from the town of Gela, near the site of an ancient necropolis.
Using only a compass, still shot cameras and a video camera that had been mounted to a drone equipped with GPS, archaeologist Giuseppe La Spina and his colleagues conducted a test on the winter solstice in December, 2016. The objective was to discover if the sun rising at solstice matched up with the hole in the rock. The experiment was a complete success.
“It appeared clear to me that we were dealing with a deliberate, man-made hole. However, we needed the necessary empirical evidence to prove the stone was used as a prehistoric calendar to measure the seasons.” La Spina told Seeker, adding: “At 7:32 am the sun shone brightly through the hole with an incredible precision. It was amazing.”
The 23-foot tall stone would have marked the turning point of the seasons and the change to colder weather. The moment likely had ritualistic importance as well, considering the investigation revealed the site was considered a sacred place towards the end of the third millennium BCE.
A short distance away from the stone, researchers unearthed a number of complete burials referred to as grotticella tombs. Dug out of the rock, the chamber-like tombs were the primary form of burial for the Castelluccio’s, the culture that thrived in the early Sicilian Bronze Age.
La Spina’s research team also located what seems to be a menhir (upright stone) to the east of the holed rock. Although lying on its side when discovered, the more than 16 feet tall stone originally stood upright, as indicated by the pit found near its base. The geological composition of the menhir and the calendar rock are not the same, suggesting the monolith was transferred to the site from another location.
“It stood at a distance of 26 feet, right in front of the rock’s hole. This obviously reinforces the sacrality of the site.” La Spina is quoted as saying in Seeker.
At least two additional holed stones have been unearthed in Sicily. They were discovered near Palermo by Alberto Scuderi, the Italian Archaeologist Group’s regional director and an archeo-astronomy expert, who told Seeker: “The newly found calendar rock appears to have been made by the same hand that carved the other two rocks. One lined up with the rising sun at the winter solstice, the other produced the same effect with the rising sun at the summer solstice,” adding, “For this reason, I believe that another holed calendar stone, marking the summer solstice, may be found near Gela.”
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