Author of the Month

Black Genesis (cont.)
By Robert Bauval & Thomas Brophy

About our (first ever) look at the astronomy of the very remote “Bagnold’s Circle”, section Bagnold Circle:

We next headed southwest into the deep, open desert. Our destination was a mysterious stone circle discovered in 1930 by Ralph Alger Bagnold and thus known as Bagnold Circle. The stone circle was poorly documented and very little was known about it, but photographs encouraged us to suppose that it, too, like the Calendar Circle at Nabta Playa, could be some sort of prehistoric astronomical device.

It took us two days of grueling travel in some of the most desolate places we had ever seen to reach Bagnold Circle. We wondered how Ralph Bagnold, in those days with vehicles that must have been very primitive by comparison, managed to come here through this testing terrain. Bagnold, who was a veteran of trench warfare in World War I, became a pioneer of deep desert exploration—especially, of the Sahara—throughout the 1930s. During World War II he was chosen to lead the British army’s Long Range Desert Group. He was also a physicist who contributed valuable knowledge of the physics of blown sand, which is still used in planetary science research today.30 He is credited with developing, for desert exploration, a sun compass that was not affected by magnetic anomalies. Bagnold’s early expeditions in the Egyptian Sahara were in search of the fabled lost city of Zarzoura…

As we approached Bagnold Circle, we were keenly aware that no studies of its possible astronomical alignments had ever been conducted. As Wendorf, Schild, and Malville wrote in 2008, “. . . a well-known stone circle was discovered by Bagnold (1931 [sic]) in the Libyan Desert. . . . No evidence of astronomical orientations had been reported, and none is readily discernable in photographs of the circle.” Because of its incredible remoteness, few people have actually seen Bagnold Circle, let alone studied it in detail on location...

Bagnold Circle lies in a shallow basin, probably an ancient seasonal lake similar to the one at Nabta Playa. The physical features we noted first were two prominent, upright, and elongated stones (very reminiscent of the gate stones of the Calendar Circle at Nabta Playa) that defined an east–west alignment. One of these stones on the west side was white, and the stone on the eastern side was black, which may indicate a symbolic significance of some sort…[with] our GPS we took readings of this alignment as well as readings for the north–south alignment, which also had at each end a very dark-colored stone, nearly black, and a very light-colored stone, nearly white.

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