Humankind has been developing systems to track time for thousands of years, but a recent discovery shows that such systems were already in use a lot earlier than previously thought.

Archeologists found what is believed to be the world’s oldest calendar in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The lunar calendar is about 10,000 years old and consists of a series of 12 large pits arranged and designed to mimic the phases of the moon.

World’s Oldest Calendar Dates Back 10,000 Years

This diagram shows the alignment of the pits and how they track various moon phases.

This ancient pit alignment was first discovered by aerial photography in 2004 but only recently was its importance recognized, with the help of state-of-the-art remote sensor technology and a special software that analyzed the arrangement and determined the position of sunsets and sunrises in the area 10 millennia ago.

According to the research team, led by the University of Birmingham’s landscape archeology professor Vincent Gaffney, his lunar calendar was actually created by hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic.

The system is by far the oldest ever discovered, being almost twice as old as the Bronze Age calendar discovered in Mesopotamia. Built approximately in 8,000 BC, the ancient pits are lined up in a 164-foot arc and are dug in the shapes of all moon phases. The full moon phase is represented by a seven-foot pit right in the center of the arc, Gaffney said.

Researchers believe each of the pits contained a wooden post. What’s even more impressive is that the pit arrangement is perfectly aligned with the Midwinter sunrise. So the world’s oldest lunar calendar would have allowed hunter-gatherers to keep track of the seasons but also account for differences between solar years and lunar years.

And it appears that this is exactly what the hunter-gatherers were doing, researchers said. It seems that the 12 pits were carefully maintained and were reshaped regularly over the years until the calendar fell out of use, approximately in the year 2,000 BC.

Keeping track of time had a great cultural and economic significance for Mesolithic Britain’s hunter-gatherer societies, as a means of predicting astronomical events and animal migration patterns.

The discovery of the world’s oldest calendar provides impressive insight into how sophisticated the Stone Age society actually was, but also marks an important step in the formal construction and history of time and. What do you think of the Aberdeenshire ancient monument? How does it reflect on humankind’s relationship with time?

[Image via Gizmodo]