Archaeologists in India believe the might have found the oldest known depiction of celestial objects in a curious example of ancient rock art. The etched stone was found at the Burzahom archaeological site in India’s Kashmir Valley. The stone was unearthed during a 1969 excavation, but has puzzled archaeologists ever since due to its enigmatic depiction of what appears to be two large objects in the sky, possibly twin suns or twin moons. Now, a new study claims that the mysterious carving may depict a particularly bright supernova which occurred around 4,500 BC. Is the Burzahom carving a record of an ancient astronomical event, or is something weirder afoot here?
The rock drawing appears to show two hunters closing in on a stag with the help of a dog beneath two large, luminous orbs in the sky overhead. Astrophysicist Mayank Vahia of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai just published the new supernova theory after cross referencing astronomical records with radiocarbon dating of various objects found at the Burzahom archaeological site. The two objects in the rock art appear to have the same brightness and appear side-by-side, ruling out the theory that they might depict the Sun and moon. Vahia instead believes that one of the orbs could be the moon, while the other may be an extremely bright supernova which rivaled the brightness of the moon.
In his recently published study of the stone, Vahia concludes that “only one Supernova remnant, HB9, meets all these criteria and it exploded around 4500 BC with a brightness comparable to the brightness of the Moon.” Vahia goes on to speculate that the two hunters in the image might not be hunters at all, but instead represent the constellations Orion and Pisces, while the animals represent Taurus and the Andromeda galaxy.
If confirmed, that theory would mean the ancient people at Burzahom possessed astronomical knowledge far more advanced than what archaeological records have previously indicated. Could this be an example of ancient astronomical knowledge, or could this stone depict something stranger? A visit from two orb-shaped UFOs? The memories of ancient astronauts who came from a planet with twin suns? Or could these merely be some sort of decorative elements which have been misinterpreted by modern researchers?
One question I keep coming back to when covering these kinds of archaeological stories is wondering just how wrong our interpretation of ancient artifact may be. Could future civilizations accurately interpret the meanings of modern street art, the works of Salvador Dalí, or the Statue of Liberty? What would they make of a dead iPhone, a Furby, or a fidget spinner?