BEIJING — Chinese archaeologists claim to have found one of the world’s oldest observatories, dating back 4,100 years ago, state media reported on Sunday.
The observatory was uncovered at the Taosi relics site in Shanxi province, He Nu, a research follow with the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The observatory “was not only used for observing astronomical phenomena but also for sacrificial rites”, said He.
The remains, in the shape of a semi-circle 40 meters (132 feet) in diameter in the main observation platform and 60 meters in diameter in the outer circle, were made of rammed earth, the report said.
Archaeologists said that 13 stone pillars, at least four meters tall, stood on the foundation of the first circle originally, forming 12 gaps between them.
“The ancient people observed the direction of sunrise through the gaps and distinguished the different seasons of the year,” said He.
In order to test the theory, archaeologists spent 18 months simulating observations at the site, Xinhua said.
They found that the seasons were only one or two days different from the seasonal division of the traditional Chinese calendar, which is still widely used in China.
The Taosi relics site dates back 4,300 years ago and is believed to be a settlement from the period known in Chinese history as the five legendary rulers (2,600 to 1,600 BC).