Time and a Place: A lunisolar “time-reckoner” from 8th millennium BC Scotland

Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, Eleanor Ramsey, Ronald Yorston, Eugene Ch'ng, Eamonn Baldwin, Richard Bates, Christopher Gaffney, Clive Ruggles, Tom Sparrow, Anneley McMillan, Dave Cowley, Shannon Fraser, Charles Murray, Hilary Murray, Emma Hopla, Andrew Howard

    Research output: Other contribution

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was “created” by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit structure, discovered in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), and dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been re-analysed and appears to demonstrate a basic calendrical function and provides an intriguing contribution to this debate. The site may provide the earliest evidence currently available for “time reckoning” as the pit group appears to mimic the phases of the moon and is structured to track lunar months. It also aligns on the midwinter sunrise framed within a prominent point on the horizon. In doing so the monument anticipates problems associated with simple lunar calendars by providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time, indicated by the moon, and the asynchronous solar year and associated seasons. The evidence suggests that early hunter gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across years the years ,and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.

    Original languageEnglish
    TypeOnline journal article 9Internet Archaeology) with embedded video
    Media of outputWebsite pages and mp4
    PublisherCouncil for British Archaeology
    EditionInternet Archaeology
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


    • astroarchaeology
    • Mesolithic
    • Time perception


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