Saturday 19th March 2016 we gather at a basic farmhouse in a part of the Karoo called Moordenaars Karoo and after being briefed about the route for the afternoon we head into the field. The plan is to experience a point in the universe or cosmos where, seen from earth in the direction of a setting and a rising sun, night and day will be equally long, after which the southern hemisphere will go into autumn and winter mode while the northern half will experience the first signs of spring and summer returning. Going back two thousand or more years in history, how and why were people here interested in such a phenomenon and how would they have known when this point in earth and cosmological time had arrived and how and where to observe and possibly celebrate it.
First heap of stones.
If you think these are just a few stone scattered in the veld, you have not yet developed an eye for the purposefulness of these scatterings. There is, for the trained eye, among the stones an arrow pointing to cleft in the distant mountain range. This indicates and arrowhead, pointing 28.5 degrees southwest, to a V-shape gap in a distant mountain, where the sun sets at the summer solstice.
A rough 4×4 ride brings us to this dry riverbed where Marius introduces his father and scientific leader of our expedition: Dr Cyril Hromnik who’s politically challenging research into and publications about ancient Africa have met with sharp criticism from his academic peers. He for instance points out that the golden rhino from a burial site at Mapungubwe is not of African but Indian origin.
We are now investigating a river front cave entrance where the walls are strewn with faintly visible images of tall figures, an eland, imprints of hands with one finger missing and clusters of red dots. All these representations would according to popular belief have been done by Bushmen or San people. Cyril Hromnik explains these as referring to ceremonial aspects of ancient Indian customs. You can imagine our surprise and disbelief because we are by now so well conditioned to think Bushmen/ San/ Kung! are the people who created these images. There is, of course no final proof of their originators or what true significance these images have.
From here we drive on and then walk up a hill side along a dry packed wall which looks like a fence but is in fact part of a cosmologically significant demarcation.
The stone seat from where to observe the rising moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising which happens once in 18,6 years. – The celestial event of the Moon Minor Standstill was observed by Dr Hromnik’s group in the Moordenaars Karoo on the night of last Tuesday the 26th of April 2016. This celestial event occurs also only once in 18.6 years.
Quena – according to Dr Hromnik’s research, presently disputed in main stream archaeology, a dravidian Indian word meaning “mixed people” connected to the trade of gold and ivory from Westafrica to India, a mix of Indian and indigenous bushmen origin, called Hottentots by early European travellers and subsequent settlers and today referred to as KhoiSan.
Two parallel walls demarcating a corridor for celestial observations.
Cyril maintains the dead were burned here according to Indian tradition. To the left in the river bed a perennial spring feeds into the river.
This two-day exploration opened our eyes to things in the landscape which are normally dismissed as cattle kraals or similar earth-bound mundane objects.
Who would think of celestial clocks laid out in the Karoo two thousand years ago?
The fascinating aspect of this exploration is that you need no archeological diggings to look into the past – it is all there in front of your feet. All you have to do is open your eyes to the celestial connections in the night sky for it to fall into place.
The obstacles are as always, in the mind. This exploration opened our minds under the patient guidance of our tutor Dr Hromnik.
We should not be surprised to hear that he is called a maverick scientist.
2 thoughts on “Autumn equinox in the Karoo – exploring remains of ancient Quena cosmology in Southern Africa”
Dr Hromnik’s reappraisal of the evidence of stone markers, walls and of potentially wrongly attributed archaeological remains certainly requires further study. Does he have any plans to excavate the sites of interest? The exploration must have been great fun as well as educational – there must be so much to re-evaluate in the way of indigenous cosmologies and any links with other cultures. If I were a betting man I would wager that the astronomical markers were not influenced by other cultures. The rock paintings and the rhino are another story.
Thank you Walter for fascinating Blog. Hope you and Colleen are happily settled in Stellenbosch.
Love Pauline Todd
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