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Nabta Playa – Stone Calendar?

Nabta Playa – Stone Calendar?

Nabta Playa is an important Neolithic site located in Egyptian Nubiam that lies 30 kilometres north of today’s Egyptian-Sudanese border and has been explored since 1973. In addition to the relatively large-scale settlement plan of a seasonal nature from the period of cca. the 7th millennium BC and several wells, unique formations of worked stones were also found there. It is these objects on the territory that is cca. 2.5 km long that are a subject of long-term interest for those experts who are investigating the mathematical and astronomical knowledge of the ancient cultures.

he structure of Nabta Playa defines one of the most famous objects of this type in the world.

Sophisticated “calendars” of ancient cultures attract the attention both of scholars and of the general public. The structure of Nabta Playa defines one of the most famous objects of this type in the world. In accordance with some researchers the entrances to the circular object that are constructed of worked stone are aligned with the position of the Sun at the time of the Summer Solstice. Adopted from Krejčí – Suková 2008, 11.

Apparently it was a well-organised group of people (pastoralists), who, after coming from different regions, met on seasonal occasions. Traces of cult activities in the form of the ritual burial of cattle have been documented there since the beginning of the 6th millennium BC. Dated as being from the next millennium are the groups of object starting with the tumuli in the north and also the freestanding stones, the lines of stones and the stone circles (i.e. cromlechs) on the southern side of the sandy hillsides. There were two stone circles that were cca. 500 m apart. There are two main categories of interpretation. That these represent an important spatial arrangement of stones with their orientation towards the celestial bodies, while, in regard to the second category, that they provide the main evidence of organised activities with a single or several different leaders.

Pro velký zájem odborníků i veřejnosti byla vytvořena kopie kamenného kruhu z Nabta Playa v okolí Núbijského muzea v Asuánu. Foto Lenka Varadzinová-Suková 2009.
Due to the great interest both of experts and of the public a copy of the stone circle of Nabta Playa was created close to the Nubian Museum in Aswan. Photo by Lenka Varadzinová-Suková, 2009.

Want to learn more?

  • Schild, R. – Wendorf, F. 2004: The Megaliths of Nabta Playa. Focus on Archaeology – Mysteries of the South Western Desert No. 1 (1), 10-15.
  • Malville, J. McK. – Schild, R. – Wendorf, F. – Brenmer, R. 2007: Astronomy of Nabta Playa. African Skies/Cieux Africains 11, 2-7.