World's oldest astronomical instrument discovered in China

World's oldest astronomical instrument discovered in China

Chinese scientists have proposed that the object found 35 years ago in a Han Dynasty tomb western in Fuyang city and called 'lacquer of unknown names'Could be a template gnomon.

In 1977, archaeologists unearthed a large number of precious relics, including the unknown object, from Xiahou Zao's grave (2nd century BC), the second Marquis de Ruyin de la Western Han Dynasty. But nevertheless, no one has been able to identify the object nor the possible function of a pair of lacquered discs found in the same tomb.

Oldest gnomon in the world

A team of Yunli Shi, a professor in the Department of History and Science and Scientific Archeology at China University of Science and Technology, has proposed that the object is a special gnomon with template, while the pair of lacquered discs is a device for the equatorial observation of celestial bodies. Both are astronomical measuring instruments olderwith definitive date that can be seen in the world. The findings appear in the Study in the History of Natural Sciences.

Scientists emphasize that the gnome Stencil is a typical instrument used by ancient Chinese astronomers to determine the advent of the different seasons with the gnomon shadows on the template with the noon sun.

The gnomon from Xiahou Zao's tomb has two symmetrical and folding parts. As it is fully set in the south-north direction, the noonday sun will cast the shadows on a vertical board in the north half with three fixed positions in the template they correspond to the days of the summer solstice, the first / fall equinoxes and the winter solstice.

Geographically, this type of stencil gnomon can only be used at the given latitude, and the one at Xiahou Zao's tomb fits the region between the capital of the Chang’an dynasty and the fiefdom of the Marquis of Ruyin Fuyang.”Explains Professor Shi.

The edges of the two lacquered discs are marked respectively by the full degrees of the celestial circle and the names and grades of the 28 lunar lodges.

Previous studies suggest that it could be a tool similar to the two cosmic discs to fortune telling from the same grave, or a kind of astronomical instrument, but both theories need definitive evidence.

Mounted on top of a lacquered box, the discs form a good complete kit for mounting the equatorial observation exactly on the geographic latitude of Fuyang, a prefectural city in the northwest of the Anhui province, China.

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Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


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