Archaeologists have uncovered what may be one of the oldest star maps ever found – a 3,000 year old stone disc discovered at an ancient hill fort site in northern Italy.
Researchers from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy used software to analyze the 29 markings carved into the disc. They determined that 28 of them match with the position of prominent stars that make up famous constellations like Orion, Scorpius, and Cassiopeia as they would have appeared in the sky thousands of years ago.
The purpose of the disc remains unclear, but the researchers believe it could have served as a tool for keeping track of the seasons. One marking does not correlate to any known star, leading to speculation that it may represent a star that has since vanished from view.
While the findings are intriguing, some outside experts such as astronomer Ed Krupp remain skeptical that the disc definitively represents constellations, arguing that more evidence is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. Still, if authenticated, the star map would push back the origins of this kind of astronomical representation by at least 1,500 years. Further analysis of the stone and the archeological site where it was discovered may shed more light on exactly what it was used for.