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Astronomical function and date of the Taosi observatory

From:Chinese Archaeology NetWriter:WU JiaBi, CHEN MeiDoDate:2009-04-29


 

Abstract:

    The Taosi site in Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province, may be the capital of the Xia Dynasty. Archeolo-gists recently discovered a large semi-circular stamped-earth platform, II FJT1, which has a clear and definite pounded-earth central core together with a curved wall perforated by twelve gaps. The platform is said to be an ancient observatory used to determine the seasons by watching the sunrise. Each feature of II FJT1 was precisely measured and the data are reproduced in this paper. An astronomical analysis of slots E2 and E12 was carried out using the azimuths of the slots’ centerlines and the vertical angle of the mountain ridge opposite, above which the sun rises. The results show that at present the sun is close to the two slots but does not exactly enter them at summer and winter solstice sunrise. Using 14C analysis archeologists dated the site to about 2100 BC. Because of the secular change in the obliquity of the ecliptic, at that date on the summer solstice the half-risen sun would have appeared inside slot E12 just to the right of the centerline, and on the winter solstice the sun would have been exactly on the centerline of slot E2. This result provides compelling proof that II FJT1 is an ancient observatory.

Key words:  astro-archeology, astro-chronology, Taosi culture, ancient observatory, time service

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