Ancient tombs may have served as telescopes for rituals

Ancient stone tombs in Portugal may have served as a sort of telescope to enhance one's ability to see stars for ritualistic purposes. The tombs are 6,000 years old and made of stone, and they feature a peculiarly lengthy but low-height entrance. As well, researchers believe they may have found the particular star these 'telescopes' were aimed at: Aldebaran, a bright red star located in the Taurus constellation.

The position of the tombs suggests they were used to view Aldebaran, and that viewing may have itself been part of a ritual. Though the 'telescopes' don't feature a lens, they do point the viewer's vision where it needs to be to spot the star before those on the ground will be able to. It lines the viewer's vision up with the horizon and on a particular part of the sky, and it also shields one's view from unnecessary ambient light.

When in the dark tombs — which may have contained the bodies of deceased individuals — one's eyes would be able to acclimate to the darkness, making it easier to spot faint stars otherwise invisible to day-adjusted sight. The researchers plan to create simulations of the tombs to test whether their speculation is correct.

What kind of rituals may the ancients have performed with these tombs? It is possible they would be used for some sort of religious stargazing experience, perhaps using the telescopes to isolate themselves in darkness and concentrate all of their visual attention on the stars. It could have also just been a more convenient way to spot the bright red star, as well.

VIA: The Guardian