You May Observe: A new Solar Calendar unearthed in the Netherlands

The last time I checked, everywhere on Earth you can see the sun and the moon.  The question is less whether there are more solar calendars around the world, but which ones have not yet been uncovered?  IFLScience lives up to the name again.

Huge 4,000-Year-Old Solar Calendar Sanctuary Unearthed In Netherlands

A 4,000-year-old solar calendar sanctuary has been unearthed by archaeologists in the Netherlands who have described it as the first of its kind. The size of four football pitches, this vast religious site appears to have been constructed so the sun shines straight through certain passages on the main burial mounds on the winter and summer solstice.

The site is located near the town of Tiel at the construction site of an industrial park. Archaeologists have been working here since 2016 in a series of digs, but this colossal open-air sanctuary was only recently found in an excavation this year. 


Among the site, archaeologists have yielded over 1 million objects dating from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman Age, and Middle Ages. The parts of the site dating to the early Bronze Age include around 25,000 bone remains, 32,000 bone shards, 170,000 clay fragments, 58,000 natural stones, and 10,000 flints.

One particularly interesting discovery at the site is a green glass bead found among one of the central graves. Remarkably, analysis has shown that it originated in Mesopotamia – present-day Iraq – some 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) away, as the crow flies. This indicates that these two vastly different cultures, separated by thousands of miles of land, were somehow in contact with one another up to 4,000 years ago.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    “This indicates that these two vastly different cultures, separated by thousands of miles of land, were somehow in contact with one another up to 4,000 years ago.”
    One thing that irritates me no end is the idea, apparently firmly fixed in the minds of most journalists, that since prehistoric people didn’t have cars, tvs, or computers, they must have been barely more than bipedal monkeys throwing poop at each other.
    Trade and intentional travel seem to me to be the things, even more than smelting metals or agriculture, that separate us from other animal species. Archaeologists have found jewelry made of seashells thousands of miles inland in many parts of the world and they have found shards of Chinese porcelain in ancient African cities.
    Despite all the readily apparent advantages of living in sturdy houses and growing your own food, there have always been people willing to spend their lives on the road, just to see how people live over there, no matter how far away ‘there’ is.

  2. says

    It would not surprise me if basically every community had something like that. Planting and harvest dates being obviously important for farming communities.

    Since the Netherlands is basically in the delta of a couple of rivers, large stones are relatively rare except where they were left by glaciers. So while things like dolmen (prehistoric tombs built with stone) can be found in the Netherlands, they are mostly found in a single province (Drenthe), and not near Tiel.

    So most of these “calendars” would be made with soil and/or wood. And depending on the soil type, they might or might not have left a mark.
    I’ve seen photos of excavations in the Netherlands where e.g. prehistoric houses and graves could only be “seen” as different colored spots in the sandy soil, all the organic materials (even teeth) were long gone.

  3. says

    moarscienceplz@1: For my money, it’s not so much that ancient people were primitive, as that they didn’t know anywhere near as much stuff as we do now. Transportation over multi-thousand-mile distances is trivial in 2023, sure. But back in, I dunno, 2,000 BCE? Very definitely not a trivial proposition.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    There is no reason to think that a single person carried the glass bead 4000 km.