100 Days Until Totality Blog Series: 78 Days Left – The First Recorded Solar Eclipse

Credit: “Light Years Ago” by Tim O’Brien, on page 40

In 2002, Irish archaeoastronomer Paul Griffin announced the confirmation of the world’s oldest known solar eclipse recorded in stone. The carving was discovered at the Loughcrew Cairn in Ireland. The site dates back to 3500-3300 BCE and its layout is based around special positions of the Sun in the sky. One of the Cairns is aligned so that light from the sunrise on the spring and autumnal equinoxes will illuminate art carved into the wall. Paul Griffin determined that some of the carvings at Loughcrew were documenting the conditions of a solar eclipse. Using a computer program called “The Digital Universe” Griffin looked for an eclipse that matched the one drawn by the neolithic astronomers. He determined that on November 30th, 3340 BCE there was a total eclipse visible from Loughcrew near sunset. There were also many human bones found at the cairn, Griffin stipulates that perhaps they were sacrificed to try and stop the solar eclipse.

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