Archaeologists say a 4,000-year-old stone, known as the Gardom's Edge Monolith, found in England is most likely an astronomical marker.
The strange, triangular pillar is angled toward the south and appears to be aligned with the altitude of the sun's placement in the middle of summer, reported Space.com.
Given the sensitivity of the site, we can't probe under the surface of the soil, astronomer Daniel Brown of Nottingham Trent University in England said in a statement, reported Space. However, through our survey, we have found a higher density of packing stones on one side, supporting the case that the stone has been orientated intentionally.
The monolith is located at a site called Gardom's Edge in the Peak District National Park near Manchester, England. This area is believed to show evidence of human settlements that extends to the Bronze Age with late Neolithic monuments and enclosures, reported Space. Researchers concluded that the monolith was erected around 2,000 B.C.
Researchers concluded that their findings indicate evidence that packing stones were carefully positioned around the monolith. They also used 3-D modeling to analyze the architecture and how the stone would be illuminated throughout the different seasons, reported PhysOrg.com.
The stone would have been an ideal marker for a social arena for seasonal gatherings, Brown said. It's not a sundial in the sense that people would have used it to determine an exact time. We think that it was set in position to give a symbolic meaning to its location, a bit like the way that some religious buildings are aligned in a specific direction for symbolic reasons.
Brown and other researchers hope that their findings will encourage further excavations at the archaeological site and unearth new discoveries.
The use of shadow casting in monuments of this period is quite rare in the British Isles, said Brown. But there are some examples including New Grange, Ireland, and some Clava cairns in the northeast of Scotland that have been proposed to include the intentional use of shadows. Both are associated to burial sites using the symbolism of a cyclic light and shadow display to represent eternity. Given the proximity of the Neolithic enclosure and possible ritual importance of this site, the Gardom's Edge monolith could be another such example.