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Megalithic observatory KOKINO
 

      Archeoastronomy is a scientific field of recent interest. Studying myths and religious views of ancient cultures related to the sky, as well as recognizing their real knowledge related to the movements of the celestial objects, positioning  their places of rising and setting along  the horizon, making and usage of calendars are just among  the themes that belong to the field of interests of the archeoastronomers. Thus they usually say that they are rather dealing with anthropology of astronomy to make difference with the existing history of astronomy.
      In 2001 archeologist Jovica Stankovski from the National Museum from Kumanovo Republic of Macedonia, discovered a huge site with terracotta from the Bronze Age near the village  of Kokino. According to the dimensions and the type, this site is distinct from all archeological sites seen up till then. The site covers an area of 5000 sq m, scale like established in two platforms right beneath the mountaintop of Taticev Kamen with an altitude of 1013 meters. At first glance the stone seats called thrones crafted into the rock and positioned in the north-south direction are dominant on this site. In that way  a person seated on one of the thrones is turned towards the east horizon so that, among  archeologists, arose an idea of existence for a possibility celestial objects to be observedin that way.  In 2002 physicist Gjore Cenev from the Planetarium at MKC in Skopje got involved in the researches of the site and made the first more comprehensive archeo-astronomical analysis.In  the site, the central position was located for observation of celestial objects as well as existence of seven markers made in vertical rocks used for marking the positions of  rising for the Sun and the Moon.
      According to the analysis of  geologist N. Đoređević the entire archeological siteis placed on the top of  a neo-volcanic plate made of andenzite rocks. The inhabitants from thatperiod used the natural disposition of the andenzite to dig in vertical and horizontal directions and in a relatively easy way they could craft the four thrones as well as the stone markers. The main idea of the archeoastronomical analysis was to measure the horizontal coordinates of the stone markers observed from the central position, and then using the formula for the transformation of the equatorial coordinates to reach a conclusion concerning the nature of the celestial object which rises on the east horizon. For that purpose the following formula was used:
                              sinδ = cosAcosφcosh +sinφsinh

where δ is the declination of the celestial object, A is the azimuth, measured from the northern horizon point,  h is the elevation over the horizon, and φ is the latitude of the site. This archeological site has the following geographical coordinates: latitude φ = 420 15’ 47’’ and longitude λ = 210 57’ 32’’.
      These measurements were performed with assistance of geodesist Chedomir Arsovski, and  the instrument used was Total Station Lica 307 with laser, that enables us to obtain results with great precision. As an illustration of the measurements and analysis preformed we shall  present the following example of the marker used for marking the position of the sunrise on the day of  the summer solstice. The measurements of the horizon coordinates of the marker have provided the following values: A = 670 56’ 50’’ and elevation h = 110 26’ 40’’.  The calculations have anticipated a mistake that is due to the refraction impact (ρ = 3,1’). Using the given values we can calculate that the declination of the celestial objects which rise was marked with the stone marker of a declination of δ = 23,90.  This is the declination value of the Sun on the day of thesummer solstice in 1800 B.C., meaning that the stone marker was crafted 3800 years ago and used for marking  the sunrise on the horizon observed from the central position of the site.
      Due to the precession impact the current value of the Sun declination on the day of the summer solstice has  a different value, that means that nowadays the Sun over the stone marker will rise lower and more on the left than 3800 years ago. That can be nicely seen in the photo of the sunrise over the stone marker taken on 21st of June 2003 or on the day of the summer solstice. Using the similar methods measurements and analyzes of the other markers were performed.  It was concluded that observed from the site’s central position the 7 stone markers could be easily recognized. Three of them are marking the places of the sunrise on the days of the summer solstice, winter solstice as well as on the days of the vernal and autumn equinoxes. Four markers are marking places of the moonrise above the horizon when the Moon has maximum and minimum values of the declination in the summer and in the winter period. These values are given in Table, where for comparison purposes values of the markers of the famous Stonehenge in Great Britain according to the measurements and calculations of G. Hawkins are also provided , as well as  the theoretical values of the declination for the objects in 1800 B.C.
      Several conclusions could be drawn from the performed measurements and analyzes. In the archeological site we can  clearly recognize  the central position for observing the celestial objects, as well as existence of seven stone markers used for marking the places of the rising of the Sun and the Moon on the horizon observed from the central position that using the astronomical terms has the role of  a top center for observation of the movements of the celestial objects. All stone markers are providing information for the same time of crafting, and that is 1800 +/- 50 years B.C. In  astronomy it is a very well known fact that places for of the moonrise repeat in a period of 18,6 years, and to understandthat this is really a periodical event there should have been observations of the moonrise at least every forty years. That leads us to the fact that before the stone markers were crafted in the ancient past, there had been some people observing dedicatedly on a daily basis the sky and movements of the Sun and the Moon. Establishing the stone markers they had a possibility to make also a calendar used for the organization of life in the community, i.e. in practice they could determine days for the start and finish of the agricultural activities and activities related to the cattle breeding, as well as for  the determination of the days for performing of  rites.
      In an archeoastronomical analysis it is of crucial importance to have the same time of archeological findings and the time of stone markers crafting. In the first attempt with regard to the terracotta an age of around 3400 years was anticipated, but the most recent excavations from 2005 made by  archeologist Jovica Stankovski has shown that on the east side of the site there are some burrows with objects the age of which is anticipated to be around 3800-4000 years, that is in excellent agreements with the time of stone markers crafting according to the archeoastronomical analysis. 
      Everything presented above leads us to conclude that this archeological site beside the role of  a mountain sanctuary 38 centuries ago also had a role of a prehistoric observatory. In accordance with the time and culture known for that period, this site was called Megalithic Observatory of Kokino.

Gjore Cenev
Astrophysicist
Planetarium at MKC

 

 

 
     
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