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March 3, 2024

Ancient Celestial Map Found in Italy Depicts Mysterious ‘Missing’ Star

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Dec 31, 2023

Archaeologists have uncovered a circa 500 BCE stone artifact containing the oldest known depiction of the night sky in the Mediterranean, including an enigmatic star that no longer exists. The discovery challenges existing theories about the spread of astronomical knowledge in the ancient world.

Chance Discovery in Old Settlement Rewrites History of Ancient Astronomy

The celestial chart was chance-upon during recent excavations at the site of Castelliere di Rupinpiccolo, an ancient fortified settlement in Sicily that was inhabited between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE. Chiselled into a circular slab of rock, the primitive star map depicts constellations still familiar to astronomers today, like Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and more.

What makes the artifact exceptionally rare is that it predates the earliest known star catalogs from Mesopotamia by several centuries. This suggests ideas about the cosmos were circulating through Mediterranean civilizations much earlier than historians realized.

“This pushes back the timeline for when we know these Mediterranean cultures started studying the stars,” said lead archaeologist Dr. Emiliano Cruccas. “It upends the notion that celestial mapping originated in Mesopotamia or Egypt then later spread through trade networks.”

Mystery of the Missing Star

But the most perplexing feature of the Rupinpiccolo star map is a previously unknown star located beneath the constellation Taurus. Dubbed Stella Rupinpiccolo, the long-vanished star has stumped astronomers who cannot find any records about it.

“This was clearly an important star for the map makers since they placed it in a prominent position near several familiar constellations,” said UCLA astronomer Dr. Yvonne Fernandez. “But it doesn’t match any known star or supernova event, at least not one that we have data on.”

There are a few possibilities that may explain the anomaly:

  • A supernova that exploded and faded thousands of years ago
  • An erupting variable star that has since gone dormant
  • A wandering star from outside our galaxy that came close to Earth then drifted away

But without more evidence, the origins of Stella Rupinpiccolo remain an open mystery.

Early Bronze Age Skywatchers Had Advanced Astronomical Skills

In addition to its baffling extra star, the fact that the Rupinpiccolo artifact accurately depicts real star patterns demonstrates remarkable astronomical skill for a culture over two millennia ago.

Constellation Stars Matched to Actual Night Sky
Orion 10 out of 10
Ursa Major 7 out of 7
Cassiopeia 5 out of 5
Taurus 6 out of 7

“This was not a primitive abstract representation but a fairly advanced, precise charting of the night sky,” said UCLA Planetarium curator Michelle Curtis. “The Rupinpiccolo skywatchers knew the cycles of stars and seasons extremely well without the aid of telescopes or photography.”

The circular stellar disk joins a growing body of evidence that Mediterranean civilizations possessed profound astronomical knowledge earlier than historians realized.

Other examples include:

  • The 5,200-year-old Nebra sky disk found in Germany depicting the oldest known concrete depiction of cosmic phenomena
  • The 3,500-year-old Minoan star catalogs unearthed in Crete demonstrating advanced abilities to track moving planets
  • The Ancient Greeks using astronomy to predict solar eclipses as early as 432 BCE

Lost Civilizations Passed Down Secret Wisdom of the Stars

The question archaeologists now face is where did the Rupinpiccolo astronomers acquire their advanced ideas about the stars which they engraved into stone for unknown reasons? Some experts believe they inherited celestial knowledge from an earlier lost civilization that possessed abilities rivaling our own.

“I think there’s compelling evidence now that much earlier cultures going back to the end of the last ice age mapped the cosmos and could predict cosmic events with great accuracy,” said Dr. Graham Hancock, author of America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization. “Knowledge that was subsequently lost to history then had to be slowly rediscovered.”

Indeed, many ancient mythologies and structures around the world parallel the Rupinpiccolo finding by demonstrating astronomical alignment and great focus on cataloging the heavens:

  • Chinese astronomer records observing Halleys Comet in 240 BCE
  • Mayan observatories precisely aligned to track solstices and equinoxes
  • The 25,000-year old Lascaux cave paintings depicting elaborate star charts
  • The 15,000-year old monumental earthwork complexes in modern-day Turkey

The unexpected unearthing of the Stella Rupinpiccolo celestial map offers more tantalizing evidence ancient peoples obsession with the stars may have been inspired by forgotten knowledge from our distant past.

Impact on Modern Astronomy

While Stella Rupinpiccolo remains an enduring cosmic mystery, some researchers say the Rupinpiccolo star map offers clues about regions of space we should reexamine more closely.

Based on the lost star’s position under Taurus, astronomers have highlighted an outer band of the Milky Way around 500 lightyears from Earth that may harbor something we overlooked.

“I definitely intend to conduct another survey of this section of the galaxy,” said Fernandez. “Who knows if there are dim red dwarf stars or cool brown dwarfs there that could have appeared brighter to naked-eye observers thousands of years ago.”

Additionally, astronomer Nick Glass believes industry telescope projects like the Vera C. Rubin Observatory should retask some observation time to characterize this zone beyond the Orion spur.

“I think we have lots of exploring left to do in our own galactic neighborhood,” Glass commented, saying he has already submitted a special request for telescope time allocation.

So while the question of Stella Rupinpiccolo endures, the ancient star map is reinvigorating researchers to double down on piecing together the unknowns of our cosmos.

Conclusion

The revelation of the Rupinpiccolo artifact has enormous implications for rethinking when advanced astronomy first developed and how knowledge about the stars spread globally in antiquity. While its origins remain clouded in mystery, this tangible piece of the ancient heavens pushes the timeline for sophisticated celestial mapping back by almost a millennium, establishing Mediterranean civilizations were actively studying the cosmos in the Early Bronze Age. One thing is clear – the intimate dance between humanity and the stars is far older and even more profound than we ever realized.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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