A stone at the popular tourist site Gardom’s Edge in the Derbyshire Peak District may in fact be a 4,000 year old seasonal sundial, experts suggest. Academics in astronomy and landscape history from Nottingham Trent University will present the findings from a study of the site at the European Society for Astronomy in Culture conference in Portugal this week.
The project involved surveying and analysing the orientation of the single standing stone, which is linked to a nearby stone age monument, including its deterioration through erosion.
The experts have been able to make their prediction based on the stone’s orientation, the dip of its slope and the altitude of the sun at midsummer.
It is thought that late Neolithic people may have used the illumination of the slanted side of the 2.2m high stone as a marker for seasons and, crucially, seasonal migration, which was so important at the time.
Single standing stones are quite rare in the Peak District, and the possible use as a seasonal sundial is unique within the British Isles.
The univeristy’s Dr Daniel Brown said: “We know that people here moved from summer pastures on higher hills to winter retreats located in valleys.
“This single standing stone gives us an idea of how ancient man perceived the skies and how ancient monuments and landscapes can reflect this.”