Author of the Month

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

The conditions of the stones suggest extreme age: they have been deeply scoured by millennia of wind erosion. Some of the stones have suffered such extreme erosion that their tops have fallen off and are still on the ground where they fell. Notwithstanding this erosion, the circle is remarkably well preserved, considering its vast age. The two alignments—east–west and north–south—strongly imply an astronomical function for the Bagnold Circle. Another clue are twenty-eight stones that form the circumference of the circle, which is not only implicit of the lunar phase cycle of 29.5 days but, more important for us, also brought to our attention a clear connection to the Calendar Circle at Nabta Playa, which also had twenty-eight stones around its circumference. We also noted that north of the circle there was an elongated low hill that suggests observation of the low northern sky, possibly for marking the passage of a circumpolar constellation or star.

Brophy and Bauval at Bagnold Circle at sunrise.

Brophy and Bauval at Bagnold Circle at sunset.

One of the most nagging questions that constantly comes to mind in this totally desolate and extremely remote place of the Egyptian Sahara is this: Why build anything here at all? What could have influenced the ancient people who roamed the deep desert to go to the trouble of constructing a stone circle in the middle of nowhere and, furthermore, to align it to the four cardinal directions? The answer, ironically enough, may actually be that they did so because of the location itself—or, to be more specific, of the latitude of the place. Today Bagnold Circle is

approximately 23.5 degrees north and just a fraction north of the Tropic of Cancer. Using the circle’s precise latitude and checking the earth’s ancient obliquity at various epochs, we found out that from 13,110 BCE to1490 BCE, the circle was located just south of the Tropic of Cancer.

This means that within that range of epochs the sun passed directly overhead exactly at the zenith a few days before and a few day after the summer solstice.

Discovery of an engraved, solstice-aligned arrow, together with possible prehistoric proto-writing, Jebel Uwainat.

This time of year was when the monsoon rains started drenching the desert and may be a reason—though perhaps not the only reason—for locating the stone circle here. We can recall from chapter 2 that in 1999 Carlo Bergmann discovered the Abu Ballas Trail, an ancient donkey trail that ran across the 500 kilometers (311 miles) of waterless desert between the Dakhla oasis and Gilf Kebir. Although anthropologists and Egyptologists have agreed that this trail was used by ancient Egyptians of the late Old Kingdom, Bergmann believes it was used as early as the Late Neolithic, about 5500–3400 BCE. Bagnold Circle is located a bit west of this trail, and it is quite possible that it served as a point for a shortcut route to Gilf Kebir, perhaps by the same Neolithic people who once populated Gilf Kebir and Jebel Uwainat…

Discovery of an isolated standing stone, possibly a prehistoric gnomon, north of Jebel Uwainat.

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