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Tracing the History of Solar Eclipses & 3 Noteworthy Celestial Events of the Past

a composite image showing the phases of an eclipse
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The history of eclipses begins long before humans ever existed to witness them. There have been many records of ancient solar eclipses over the millennia, starting with rock carvings called petroglyphs that were made by primitive cave dwellers.

While eclipses are still breathtaking events today, we know why and how they occur. Imagine the astonishment, awe, confusion, and fear the early humans must have felt so long ago when day abruptly turned to night and the sun turned black with a brilliant halo surrounding it.


Across the globe, ancient civilizations have written the ongoing history of solar eclipses. Here’s a look at a few interesting accounts of eclipses of the past.

 

1. The Earliest Known Record of a Solar Eclipse

 

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According to NASA, the earliest recording may be spiral-shaped carvings made in three ancient stone monuments called the Loughcrew Cairns that were discovered in County Meath, Ireland in 1999. These symbols showed the alignments of the sun, moon, and horizon and are believed to reference an eclipse that occurred on November 30, 3340 BCE.

 

2. Records of Ancient China

 

An ancient Chinese bridge and temple

Ancient Chinese civilizations kept excellent records of the history of eclipses. One particularly noteworthy account comes from a document called the Shujing: "On the first day of the last month of autumn, the Sun and Moon did not meet harmoniously in Fang.”

To assign dates to the history of solar eclipses, scholars use context clues. For example, the word “Fang” in this text refers to a section of the sky that can only be seen from a certain location, and it’s known that the eclipse occurred during the reign of Zhong Kang who was an emperor of the Xia Dynasty. This information shows that the eclipse occurred on October 22, 2137 BCE.

 

3. Eclipses in Religious Texts

 

A person holding a religious book toward the sun

It’s no surprise that ancient solar eclipses appear in religious texts. Because so little was known about these mysterious celestial events, it was quite common to assign eclipses supernatural origins and meanings.

The history of solar eclipses often corresponds with ancient writings—matching events with eclipses can reveal fascinating information beyond just when the eclipses occurred.

For example, in the Christian Bible, there’s a passage that says that the moon turned to blood after Jesus was crucified. This may be a reference to a lunar eclipse, which makes the moon appear to be reddish-orange. Some researchers believe Jesus’ crucifixion occurred on Friday, April 3, 33 BCE because a lunar eclipse happened on that day.

The Quran also mentions two important solar eclipses: one occurred before Mohammed’s birth, and the other occurred on the day of his son Ibrahim’s death.

 

Make Your Own History of Eclipses

 

The history of solar eclipses is incredibly long—we’ve hardly scratched the surface! Stay tuned to the Rainbow Symphony blog for more fascinating insight into modern and ancient solar eclipses. Our Eclipse section also has some great information about upcoming eclipses and eclipse safety.

There’s a reason so many civilizations have kept records of eclipses—they’re amazing! Witnessing one is an event you’ll never forget. Order ISO and CE certified solar eclipse glasses at Rainbow Symphony for a safe, high-clarity viewing experience. Our specialty solar viewers lenses are made of scratch-resistant materials, featuring grade-five optical density. This guarantees absolute protection from potentially harmful solar radiation. “Black Polymer” completely filters out 100% of ultraviolet light, infrared light, and 99.999% of intense visible light. The filters placed on the lenses will produce an orange-colored image of the sun delivered with sharper clarity. We can also customize eclipse glasses for your business or event. Shop our eclipse store’s selection now!