Ancient Civlizations and the Sun

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"Ancient Civlizations and the Sun"
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The planet earth resides within a "solar system," defined as the sun together with the bodies orbiting around it, thus reinforcing a fact we all know, the sun is and has always been the center. Knowing this it is not therefore surprising that ancient Christian portrayals of Jesus show him surrounded by the light of the sun or with a sun glowing behind his head, or that the well known Celtic cross is also know as the solar cross as it is a cross within a sun.

From the earliest days of mankind the sun, the moon and the multitude of stars in the night sky above have been a constant source of wonder critical to the human understanding of not only the world we live in but the universe surrounding it. Lacking the obvious benefits of modern technology and massive archives of scientific research we have today the ancients looked upon these celestial bodies in the only way that made sense at the time, as gods. Consequently many civilizations offered prayer and sacrifice; some even formed entire cults devoted to such worship effectively tying science (albeit archaic) and religion together for the first time. The sun was so important to society that many of the greatest ancient cities were known as "the city of the sun."

Many ancient civilizations had at least one major god attributed to the body known as the sun: the Celts had Lugh, the Egyptians had Ra, Greece had Helios and then Apollo, Freyr was the sun god of the Norse, for the Japanese it was the goddess Ameratsu and the Hindu associate the bird god Garuda to the rays of the sun. These deities became an integral part of society and religion as many considered the sun to be the bringer or creator of life. From a scientific perspective there is logic to this, just consider how the energy of the sun is harnessed in the photosynthesis of plant life. The sun gods were believed responsible for many facets of how the world works including weather, seasons and time. Priests and religious teachers had a life and death association to the astronomy of the sun, often they would be executed if they could not accurately predict astronomical events and the effects on the lands especially as it related to agriculture.

In South and Central America cultures such as the Mayans, Aztecs and Incans developed calendars based upon the movement of the sun in the sky and the position of the stars. In North America many Native American tribes also developed very accurate calendar systems synchronized to monthly lunar cycles and annual solar cycles. There have been many archaeological finds that indicate early Native American tribes also created solar observation stations to assist them in their research. Many scientists and archeoastronmers believe that ancient European monuments such as Stonehenge may have been originally designed in relation to the alignment of the sun in the sky, coinciding with equinoxes and solstices and may have either been used as a calendar or to predict solar eclipses and in Africa the pyramids of Egypt are another example of structures that have mysterious connections to solar astronomy.

Clearly the significance of the sun on our planet was not lost on those who lived in ancient times; our predecessors paved the way for the knowledge and understanding that we have today. There is some argument to be made that we still do not fully understand what they understood but by studying ancient civilizations we can undoubtedly learn many new and fascinating facts that still hold true to today's science.

More about this author: Kody Hackbusch

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