Autumn equinox in the Karoo – exploring remains of ancient Quena cosmology in Southern Africa


Portrait of a Quena/Ottentotou/Hottentot/KhoiSan woman by Samuel Daniell (1775-18811)

 

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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.

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First heap of stones.

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Markers in the veld.

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.

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Another group of stones, pointing to another distant mountain top.

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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.

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An Indian rhinoceros with one horn only. (Photo provided by Sian Tiley-Nel, Manager & Chief Curator, University of Pretoria. Wikimedia)

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.

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The representations here were, according to Dr Hromnik, not done by “Bushmen” as academics would have it, but by Quena people, who were influenced by contact with Indian gold and ivory traders.

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.

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This 72m long wall has basically 3 main functions: 1. Its northern end in connection with the Brandberg mountain and the stone Seat navigates you towards the rising of the Moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising — once in 18.6 years. 2. The gap in the wall (not in the middle) gives you the Equinox Sunrise. 3. The length of the Wall gives the time within which the Full Moon switches the sides: from South in Summer to North in Winter and vice versa (source: Cyril Hromnik).

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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.

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The observational seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Sunset at autumn equinox in the Karoo.

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Equinoctial sundowners.

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An oil lamp hollow to signal events to people on the opposite mountain side.

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Sunrise at the autumn equinox between two upright markers.

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Another temple site connected to the autumn equinox.

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Two parallel walls demarcating a corridor for celestial observations.

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Structure from a recent age: a Voortrekker bread oven.

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The temple mound from where the chosen souls may take their final way to the celestial North.

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Cyril – our guide and teacher.

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Bringing it all together.

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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.

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Karoo landscape near Laingsburg/Western Cape/South Africa.

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 comments on “Autumn equinox in the Karoo – exploring remains of ancient Quena cosmology in Southern Africa

  1. Steve Reizlein says:

    hi Walter
    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.

  2. Pauline Todd says:

    Thank you Walter for fascinating Blog. Hope you and Colleen are happily settled in Stellenbosch.

    Love Pauline Todd

    Sent from my iPad

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