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Signature of the sky in rock

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Great discovery
Great discovery

Staff Reporter

HYDERABAD: An early representation of the Great Bear constellation dating back to around 500 B.C. has been discovered on a piece of rock at Mudumula village of Mahabubnagar district by the University of Hyderabad.

The University's History department dated the find to the megalithic period and suggested the sky map as being the earliest physical representation of the sky discovered in the country. "This probably could even be the earliest such representation in the entire South Asia," Reader in department of History K.P.Rao who led the team, claimed at a media conference here on Monday.

The representation of the group of stars was found on a square table-like rock with a flat slanting top. "This appears to have been deliberately planted by the megalithic people to plot the Great Bear constellation, also known as `Ursa Major' and referred to as `Saptarshi Mandala' in Indian astronomy," Dr.Rao said.

The group of seven stars, four of which appear like a rectangle and a tail-like formation with three stars, has been mapped on the rock in the form of cup-marks. The Great Bear constellation was used by several communities especially the caravans and sea voyagers to identify the `Pole Star', located above the north pole and thus locate the exact north.

80 Menhirs found

Apart from the sky map of `seven stars', researchers found accurate depiction of other stars and groups at Mudumala. Dr.Rao described the site as unique since it was dotted with about 80 big menhirs (standing stones) some as tall as 14 feet and several hundreds of smaller menhirs scattered all over the agricultural fields. The central area of the monuments has a resemblance to the Stonehenge site in England, it is said.

Dr.Rao and team visited the site on the days of summer and winter solstice and equinox and found that particular rows of stones were aligned to the rising and setting Sun on these days. "This suggests the megalithic community here was aware of the solar trajectories," he said. The investigations at the site were conducted with financial assistance from the University Grants Commission.


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