Originally posted by Barflyer
...Ritual and worship? It's amazing how little is known about why it's there at all.
Knowledge is power. It wouldn't surprise me that the people who kept track of the dates of the solstice kept the information close to themselves as a
way to hold power over the people.
As you mentioned above, it really isn't difficult to know when the solstice is occurring, if you just bothered to keep track of the sunrise over time
(the solstices will mark the farthest "North of East" and "South of East" that the Sun would rise in a year). However, even today, how many people
will bother to keep track of this, or even know enough to keep track.
The scientists of the time who did actually keep track of this could pas themselves off as "mystics" in order to keep the calendar information to only
a select few (remember, knowledge is power). Perhaps creating a ritual and worship that would surround this could help give the appearance that TPTB
at the time held some special information that only they were privileged to understand.
This could also mark the start of some religious beliefs. Science and religion could be connected in this manner where the first religious leaders
were scientists who wanted to hold power over the people, so they didn't share the scientific explanations of nature, but rather intentionally and
falsely associated it with mysticism.
An interesting take on this could be found in Isaac Asimov's book "Foundation". Near the last half of that novel, after the fall of the Galactic
Empire and the galactic dark ages that followed, it was the use as science as a religion (Asimov called it "Scientism") that helped the "barbaric"
post-fall galactic citizens accept science once again.
In the case of this story the scientists had good intentions. Rather than the desire to use knowledge to hold power over the people, they really
wanted to help them by bringing scientific knowledge back to the uneducated barbaric masses in the hopes of re-instating a galactic empire. However,
the barbaric masses could not distinguish science from mysticism, and saw the scientists as holy people. The scientists did not originally want this,
but they gave in, considering it to be a means to an end, and created the religion of "Scientism", with scientists as Priests.
A similar (but different) thing happened in real life during the real dark ages. During the dark ages, scientific knowledge was very hard to find in
the general population. Most people were uneducated. Only the more educated people in dark-ages Europe (people who could read) were the ones who
were the "keepers of scientific knowledge" -- and those people more often than not happened to be monks. In Europe, monks -- and the church -- were
the caretakers of most of the knowledge during the dark ages.
The book "Foundation" is actually a Galactic Empire analogy to the real fall of the Roman Empire and the dark ages that followed. I realize that
Newgrange is earlier than that -- it is a pre-Roman Empire site -- but the idea of people using scientific knowledge as a sort of mysticism to hold
power over the uneducated masses could have still applied.
edit on 12/20/2011 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)