TIME is the most important commodity on earth. It gives order to our lives, determining whether we get to where we are meant to be and measuring out our allotted lifespan. We think we understand time and have mastered its intricacies. But how did we tell time centuries ago?
Our Neolithic ancestors looked to the sky for answers about time. Their skills were learnt from the position of the sun and moon and changes in nature. This basic time-keeping would not have given them a deep understanding of time and their place in the Universe.
But what if this picture were false? What if our distant ancestors were far from being the passive creatures upon whom time acted to their eternal ignorance? What if they had mastered time and that it was through one of the strongest icons of our past, the Celtic cross?Just such a proposal has been put forward by amateur historian, archaeologist and navigator Crichton EM Miller in his book The Golden Thread of Time that says he has found a tool that re-writes history:
"This magical instrument that I have discovered, hoary with age … encompasses a knowledge of the cosmos, the use and understanding of mathematics, geometry, surveying, astronomy and astrology. The secrets of this device were foundations of ancient civilisations, long before the written world."
Miller says that with this instrument he can prove that the ancients could understand time, that they could plot where they were in position to stars, and most importantly in terms of travel, used this same instrument to find longitude.
Finding longitude - the ability to determine a point east or west of a chosen north-south line, or meridian - has been sailing's greatest quest. The British navy lost so many ships because of their inability to find their position accurately, that by the 18th century the race was on to discover an instrument to help. In the 1730s when John Harrison invented his chronometer and cracked the problem of longitude, navigation was changed forever.
Most archaeologists suggest that before being able to plot longitude, intercontinental ocean travel was impossible, or if achieved, relied on luck. They point out that longitude relies on knowing local time, and where, they ask, are the ancients' clocks?Miller's answer is that they are right under our noses – in the henges and pyramids that exist throughout the world.
"I have discovered that these pyramids and megaliths are the clocks and calendars of the ancients," he says.
Miller believes that henges were used in the Northern Hemisphere (where the pole star is higher in the sky) and pyramids in the Southern Hemisphere as "star clocks or observatories". He concludes that these sophisticated structures were designed with the aid of an instrument that we recognise from graveyards and churches, but in its original form allowed an ancient understanding of the universe and time.
"The instrument of knowledge and practical skill is the cross," reveals Miller. "The Celtic cross is a practical working tool of great depth. It was the staff of magicians."
Miller came to his understanding of the practical purpose of the Celtic cross whilst out at sea experimenting with finding the position of stars. He discovered that a simple protractor on a cross with a plumbline could define degrees. Since then, his experiments have concluded that this device can perform the minute geometric calculations necessary to build the pyramids, henges and ultimately enable timekeeping.
His theory is supported in part by a discovery in the Great Pyramid at Giza. In 1872 Waynman Dixon discovered a shaft in the Egyptian pyramid and hidden within found a number of broken objects, what look like a measuring stick, a plumbline and a hook. Miller suggests that this is part of the cross instrument used by Egyptians to measure and track the angle of stars. He postulates that the pyramid was the giant clock the Egyptians used to tell the time and that in this way Giza became the prime meridian against which local time was set throughout the rest of the world using megalithic henges or pyramids.Miller also thinks that the knowledge of the cross came to Egypt from elsewhere, as evidenced by the stone henges in Britain which pre-date the pyramid at Giza. Miller believes Neolithic sailors navigated the seas with ease using their Celtic cross.
"A lot of the proof is similarity of design separated by ocean and time," he explains. "There are so many similarities in boats, language. Anomalies which cause problems to histories are solved by the early ability to navigate."
Miller has found numerous examples of cave drawings, rock art or decorative ceramics that include the Celtic cross. He has visited 26,000-year-old cave drawings that show the angle of the stars, "proving" the ancients' accurate knowledge of the solar system.
And with his discovery of an alternative history that demonstrates we were once all "children of the earth", Miller hopes to change the world.
"Today we're separated by concepts of nation," he says. "We have come through one of the worst centuries ever – millions slaughtered on ideas. Perhaps if we could accept that we're all interconnected we'll stop."
This is a fine idea, but one that has a long way to go. Whilst Miller has patented his ideas for a working Celtic cross, he is yet to convince academia that ocean-going travel was commonplace from the Neolithic era.
For now, Miller's cross is largely ignored. Only time will tell if he is right.
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