Serpent Mound - Purpose - Astronomical Significance

Astronomical Significance

In 1987 Clark and Marjorie Hardman published their finding that the oval-to-head area of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset. William F. Romain has suggested an array of lunar alignments based on the curves in the effigy's body. Fletcher and Cameron argued convincingly for the Serpent Mound's coils being aligned to the two solstice and two equinox events each year. If the Serpent Mound were designed to sight both solar and lunar arrays, it would be significant as the consolidation of astronomical knowledge into a single symbol. The head of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset and the coils also may point to the winter solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise.

If 1070 CE is accurate as the construction year, building the mound could theoretically have been influenced by two astronomical events: the light from the supernova that created the Crab Nebula in 1054, and the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1066. The supernova light would have been visible for two weeks after it first reached earth, even during the day. The Halley's Comet's tail has always appeared as a long, straight line and does not resemble the curves of the Serpent Mound. Halley's comet appears every 76 years. Numerous other supernovas may have occurred over the centuries that span the possible construction dates of the effigy. However spectacular, the light from the Crab Nebula would not have inspired the particular design of the Serpent Mound.

The Serpent Mound may have been designed in accord with the pattern of stars composing the constellation Draco. The star pattern of the constellation Draco fits with fair precision to the Serpent Mound, with the ancient Pole Star, Thuban (α Draconis), at its geographical center within the first of seven coils from the head. The fact that the body of Serpent Mound follows the pattern of Draco may support various theses. Putnam's 1865 refurbishment of the earthwork could have been correctly accomplished in that a comparison of Romain's or Fletcher and Cameron's maps from the 1980s show how the margins of the Serpent align with great accuracy to a large portion of Draco. Some researchers date the earthwork to around 5,000 years ago, based on the position of Draco, through the backward motion of precessionary circle of the ecliptic when Thuban was the Pole Star. Alignment of the effigy to the Pole Star at that position also shows how true north may have been found. This was not known until 1987 because lodestone and modern compasses give incorrect readings at the site.

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