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Appendix 6: Big Dipper Constellation Possibly Represented on Prehistoric Amulet

From Maud Makemson's 1954 article.

From Marcel Baudouin's 1921 article.

There is perhaps archaeological evidence that the big dipper stars were anciently recognised as a constellation. In her 1954 article on "Astronomy in Primitive Religion." (The Journal of Bible and Religion, Volume 22, Number 3, July, Pages 163-171) the noted astronomer Maud Makemson reproduced a drawing of what she also believed was a representation of stars in Ursa Major and Boötes incised on a fossilised and silicified sea-urchin (Echinus), on an amulet from stone-age northern Europe. The drawing used by Makemson was likely taken from a detailed article ("Luminosities, Colors, Diameters, Densities, Masses of Stars.") relating to the history of stellar astronomy by the Swedish astronomer Knut Lundmark (who had migrated to the USA but after a few years returned to Sweden). Lundmark's article appeared in Handbuch der Astrophysik, Volume 5, Part 1, Chapter 4, 1932, Pages 209-697 (Appendices to Chapter 4 in Volume 5, Part 2, Pages 1077-11501). On page 221 there are 2 figures of the amulet (figure 5 and figure 6). Makemson has reproduced figure 5 as figure a and also adopted Lundmark's discussion of the amulet. Marcel Baudouin also thought he had identified the constellation Ursa Major on a number of palaeolithic bones and rocks (as well as the amulet). Makemson is apparently relying ultimately on the work of the pioneer French archaeoastronomer Marcel Baudouin (1860-1941, Secretary of the Societe Prehistorique Francaises). Baudouin's work with the fossilised and silicified sea-urchin (Echinus) was published in 1921 (Baudouin, Marcel. (1921). "La Grande Ourse et le Phallus du Ciel. [Spongiaire phalliforme à gravures]." Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, Tome 18, Number 11, Pages 301-308). Baudouin has made the original constellation identifications. It is likely that Makemson never sighted Baudouin's original article. Through at least Lundmark's article she endorsed the interpretation of the amulet that included: (1) that the engraver had taken care to indicate the differences in brightness of the stars  by varying the sizes of the cavities, and (2) the depicted configuration of the big dipper stars indicated a high age for the origin of the amulet. Discussions of the amulet and its possible astronomical interpretation are rare. The obvious question is: If the amulet is correctly described by Marcel Baudouin then is the astronomical interpretation reasonable on the evidence? The mention of the amulet by Elizabeth Baity in 1973 likely relies on knowledge of the relevant publication by Maud Makemson and nothing further. Arjan Smit (January, 2011) kindly informed me where Makemson's article can be accessed on the internet. I finally sighted Baudouin's article in April, 2011. (Baudouin also believed that 1 group of 7 cup marks (out of a total of 18) on a stone excavated from Aurignacian cultural deposits at La Ferrassie, France, was a representation of the Big Dipper (= Big Bear) constellation.)

Appendix 7: Cup marks on Stones as Possible Prehistoric Representations of Constellations

Source: Schütte, Gudmund. (1920). Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia. (Off-print of his article "Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia." from The Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume XXXVI, October, 1920, Page 244-254.) The cup marks (cavities) - distributed without any obvious/certain plan - likely had ritual importance. However, in some cases the outlines of some of the more obvious/prominent constellations are indicated. This suggests that at least some cavities have originally been designed to form approximate "charts" of at least some star groups. More interesting, the star depictions seem to distinguish between different magnitudes. In a few cases the stars are of unequal size and indicate the possibility that (apparent) star brightness (magnitude) is being indicated/depicted.

Lundmark's use of Schütte's diagram, with addition of constellation identifications. Source: Lundmark, Knut. (1932/1933 (Page 220)). "Luminosities, Colors, Diameters, Densities, Masses of Stars." In: Handbuch der Astrophysik, Volume 5, Parts 1 and 2. (Volume 5, Part 1, 1932, Chapter 4, Pages 209-697 (Article); Volume 5, Part 2, 1933, Chapter 4, Pages 1077-11501 (Appendices)). (Note: Volume 5 was issued in 2 parts (comprised 1156 pages). It formed the first section of a discussion of the Stellar System. The second section was published in Volume 6. Eventually, Handbuch der Astrophysik comprised 7 volumes, published 1928-1936. Chapter 4, "Luminosities, Colors, Diameters, Densities, Masses of Stars." - comprising 560 pages with the appendices included - is considered the most complete discussion of the subject that has ever appeared. The historical development of determinations of stellar magnitude is traced from the primitive constellation figures chipped into rocks by stone-age 'astronomers' up to modern times. The discussion contains a vast amount of original work. The Appendices to Chapter 4 appeared in Volume 5, Part 2. Knut Lundmark was a Swedish astronomer who had migrated to the USA but after a few years returned to Sweden. From 1921 to 1926 he was at Lick Observatory and Mount Wilson Observatory. He was professor of astronomy and head of the observatory at Lund University 1929-1955. Life dates: 1889-1958. I am grateful to Göran Johansson for corrective information concerning Knut Lundmark.)

Throughout parts of Europe and Asia (also Africa, the Americas, and Australia) many rocks and stones – mostly exposed – are decorated with prehistoric hollowed cup markings. A cup-mark is a roughly circular depression produced by human hand into a stone or rock. They appear singly, in lines, or as the basis for further patterns, called cup-and-rings, so as to cover a whole or portion of rock. Almost all cup marks are between 1.5 and 10 centimetres in diameter and their average depth is between 10 and 12 millimetres. They occur on horizontal, sloping, or vertical stone/rock surfaces. The occurrence of single cup marks is unusual. They typically occur in groups, often numbering up to 200 (or even 1000) in a single location. They would likely have been made using a hammer and chisel type instrument. Archeologists have studied the cup markings for over 100 years. New ones are also constantly being discovered during the course of survey work, etc. The reason, or reasons, behind these carvings is unknown. Various suggestions have been put forward since early antiquarians identified them as prehistoric; including maps of the world, maps of the stars, sites where fat was set alight for religion (or to replicate the night sky), records of ownership or boundaries, etc. Despite the multiplicity of the suggested ideas there are common features in the setting of the 'art' forms - they are usually on highland overlooking open land. The cup marks are very difficult to date. They bear no direct relation to known prehistoric settlement sites. It is believed that cup markings were made during all three eras of the Stone Age - Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. However, dating remains debatable - both Neolithic and Bronze age dates being suggested. Cup marks seem to have lost favour in the middle Bronze Age. Similar cup markings appear on stones and rocks hundreds of kilometres apart and with no obvious connection. Archaeologists view cup marks as an abstract form of art, because there are never any representations recognisable as animals or people. Despite many vigorous arguments their meaning, dating and placing is likely to remain a puzzle. Cup marks are now interpreted as a pattern of behavior throughout the prehistoric world. Most current theories associate cup marks with fertility rites. For instance, the archaeologist Robert Bednarik cites a report by the eminent amateur Australian archaeologist/ethnologist Charles Mountford who witnessed the making of cup marks in Central Australia in 1948 as an 'increase ritual' for the pink cockatoo. The term "cupule" was invented recently (2003) by the archeologist Robert Bednarik, in an attempt to provide a consistent name for a phenomenon.

Since the early 20th-century attempts have been made to interpret the distribution of these cup marks as the patterns of constellations. Perceived patterns of these cup marks have frequently been compared to constellations. Some researchers, both academic and amateur, believe that prehistoric cup marks on stones are grouped together in the shape of well-known constellations. During the late 19th-century and early 20th-century several academics attempted to identify patterns among the cup marks on stones in Europe (especially Sweden) that they believed corresponded (or could correspond) to constellations. (The Big Dipper was a common constellation identified.) However, there is still no consensus about their meaning. The debate whether prehistoric cup marks on stone in Europe can be interpreted as representations of ancient constellations is not yet settled. However, recent interpretations are not supportive of this view. Three early academics who attempted to demonstrate that prehistoric 'astronomers' used cup marks to represent individual constellations on rock and stone were Gudmund Schütte (1920), George Browne (1921), and Marcel Baudouin (1926). Gudmund Schütte (1872-1958) was Danish philologist and historian, George Browne (1833-1930) was a British clergyman and archaeologist, and Marcel Baudouin (1860-1941) was a French historian and pioneering archaeoastronomer. Basically, Browne and Baudouin only 'identified' instances of single constellations. Schütte believed he could identify examples (stones at Venslan, Denmark, and Dalby, Denmark) of 'star maps' (= multiple constellations/groups of constellations) portrayed on stones and rocks. One of the earliest proponents of prehistoric astronomical theories (focused on Scotland) was the Scottish medical doctor and amateur archaeologist George Moore (1803-1880(?)) (Ancient Pillar Stones (1865)). One of the most enthusiastically persistent early proponents of prehistoric astronomical theories (focused on Scotland) was the Scottish amateur archaeologist Ludovic Mann (1869-1955) (Archaic Sculpturings (1915)). In 1930 Mann reported in the science journal Nature he had interpreted markings on two stones at Langside and Cleuch (near Glasgow), as having astronomical significance. The markings he interpreted consisted of a series of rings, arcs and cup mark depressions. According to Mann some of the groups of cup marks resemble the Sickle in Leo and (more doubtfully) a star-group in Scorpio. Mann also claimed he calculated that there had been an eclipse on March 28, 2983 BCE from markings on the stone itself. He stated that afterwards he found from German astronomers that there had been an eclipse on that date. According to Mann he obtained the year by his interpretation of the system of wheel-like markings on the stone, which he interpreted to be cycles of years. In spite of the difficulties of interpretation - such as the difficulties due to the effects of weathering and aging being able to create cup marks, and also the frequent looseness of the matches made - the belief still exists that prehistoric 'astronomers' used cup marks engraved on rocks and stones to represent individual constellations.

Some References:

Moore, George. (1865). Ancient Pillar Stones of Scotland: Their Significance and Bearing on Ethnology.

Mann, Ludovic. (1915). Archaic Sculpturings: Notes on Art, Philosophy, and Religion in Britain 2000 BC to 900 AD.

Schütte, Gudmund. (1920). Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia. (Off-print of his article "Primæval Astronomy in Scandinavia." from The Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume XXXVI, October, 1920, Page 244-254.)

Browne, George. (1921). On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire.

Baudouin, Marcel. (1926). La préhistoire par les étoiles: un chronomètre préhistorique.

Brunod, Giuseppe. (2002). "The visibility tunnel: survey method of astronomical oriented cupmarks." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]

Dimitriadis, Giorgio. (2002). "Cupmarks: a time system annotation. Geometric analysis of configuration." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]

Martini, Sergio. (2002) "Constellation perception and rock art: methodological problems." (Proceedings of the International Meeting: Archaeoastronomy, a Debate Between Archaeologists and Astronomers Looking for a Shared Method. (Pages ?-?). [Note: Held Genoa and Sanremo, February 8-9, Genoa and November 1-3, Sanremo.]

Bednarik, Robert., Consens, Mario., Muzzolini, Alfred., Seglie, Dario., and Sher, Yakov. (2003). Rock Art Glossary: A Multilingual Dictionary.

Lewis, Roy. and Bednarik, Robert. (Editors). (2010). Mysterious Cup Marks: Proceedings of the First International Cupule Conference.

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Per my posting to Hastro-L, 31 October 2018. Please do not remove source credit tag. Explanation of source was included in posting to Hastro-L, to avoid misappropriation/voiding of credit for photograph.

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Per my posting to Hastro-L, 21 December 2017. "Judgment Against the Testimony of Astronomy" (The Ecclesiastical Review, Volume XLVIII, Number 2, February, 1913, Pages 222-225) based on January 1913 German-language article by Johann Hagen in Stimmen aus Maria-Laach. Report of rejection by judge of astronomical evidence in a 1910 American criminal trial. The Jesuit astronomer Johann Hagen was later to become the director of the new Vatican Observatory.

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Per my posting to Hastro-L, 25 July 2017. Reasonable photograph (my copy of the book is too fragile to photocopy) of poorly scanned illustration on page 164 of Antike Himmelsbilder by Georg Thiele (1898) that is downloadable from as PDF file at