From time immemorial, humanity has always been curious about what lies beyond the skies. Thus, they created various astronomical devices and mechanisms that would allow them to observe and to somehow unravel the mysteries of celestial bodies.
One of the earliest structures made by ancient civilizations are the megaliths or the uniquely assembled massive stones that usually have circular formation and situated in wide open spaces. The building of these stone structures has continuously mystified scientists and archeologists of the modern ages. Studies led them to believe these large rock assemblages functioned as monuments for rituals, ceremonies, burials, and most especially as astronomical observatories and time-telling systems.
Amazingly, even without the use of telescopes or any advanced apparatus, people from the past were able to learn about the universe. They formed the boulders towards the alignment of celestial bodies – sun, moon, stars, and planets. It is believed this helped measure time and know the seasons for accomplishing specific activities such as planting and harvest. Indeed, construction of megaliths served a number of special purposes for the lives of early civilizations.
The oldest astronomical megaliths were discovered in Southeastern Turkey along the Taurus Mountains. This megalith is called the Göbekli Tepe and is believed to be built almost 12,000 years ago, 7,000 years before the construction of the famous Stonehenge in England. The stone pillars depict an orientation that reveals the cosmological beliefs of the inhabitants and builders of the monumental structures. Each stone column was positioned in a particular angle, which scientist concluded was to observe Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus Constellation.
Another significant astronomical formation, believed to be built 11,000 years ago, is the Nabta Playa found at the Nubian Desert 100 km. West of Abu Simbel in the southernmost part of Egypt. It is located in the Tropic of Cancer, which is the region above the equator where the sun is directly overhead usually during the start of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. The complex arrangement of the stone slabs depict a symbolic geometrical architecture that aided the inhabitants during the beginning of rainy and dry seasons. It is believe they also represented the sun, water, and even death. Due to the shadow cast and the period when the megalith was constructed, caused scientists to believe that the Nabta culture inspired the construction of the pyramids.
There are several elaborately made astronomical megaliths all over the world that unravel the dynamic and impressive culture of ancient civilizations. Some of the oldest megaliths are in large parts of the Middle East and are assumed to be built during the early Mesopotamian period. These are called standing stones that function as places for religious rituals. European megaliths such as Stonehenge, Avebury, Ring of Brodgar and Beltany is known to be stone circles and believed to forecast lunar and solar activities. Asian megaliths, specifically in Northeast and Southeast Asia, were used primarily for funeral ceremonies called dolmens. Native American tribes in North and South America built megaliths and cliff palaces that aided their agricultural needs due to its location which was typically associated with sunrise.