#Minoan #Astronomy North Star #BronzeAge

double-axes-with-constellations

Bronze Age Crete is a tantalizing period for historians and archeologists. So much is known from the archeological record since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans starting in 1900, but the written record is sparse and indecipherable. This mysterious language, Linear A, leaves opportunity for both academics and authors to imagine different scenarios. I belong to the latter group and this series of posts is best classified as historical fiction.

We know that the Minoans were a seafaring and agricultural society, so certainly would have carefully observed the night sky for navigation and planting purposes. The sailors’ first interest would have been a north star.

double-axes-with-polaris

Sailors in the modern era learned to follow the two farthest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the first star in the handle of the little dipper. This star is Polaris and the brightest star in the little dipper. By a quirk of time, Polaris happens to be a very good north star.

double-axes-with-bull-star

This was not true 3,500 years ago. While there was no true north star in that era, a star in the little dipper was the best approximation. Thus sailors could follow the nearest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the last star in the little dipper. This star is Kochab and the second brightest star in the little dipper.

While these two constellations have been called Ursa Minor and Ursa Major since classical times (2,000-2,500 years ago), there is no reason not to imagine that Minoan saw their important symbol of the double ax, and named the north star the Bull Star.

Thus, when Minoan sailors looked for their bearings in the night, they located the large double ax and followed the lower edge of the head to the top edge of the small double ax. Having thus located the Bull Star they knew which was was north.

“May the Double Axes and the Bull Star guide you safely home.”

 

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Categories: Bronze Age, Crete, Minoans | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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