Ancient Dogon tribe’s advanced astronomical knowledge proven thousand years later

Dogon people performing an ancient rituals

The study of anthropology delves into the past driven by our relentless quest to understand the times that are long gone. And it very often confronts phenomena that question our understanding of our ancestors and the history as we knew it.

With the advantages of the rapid progress towards modern sophisticated technologies over the last century , even more baffling mysteries from the past are coming up now in the archaeological and anthropological studies. In almost every continent, the researchers are uncovering more unanswered issues which challenge the fundamentals of our perception of the past. Myths are turning into history and fables are becoming facts.

Archaeological discoveries over the last two centuries have unravelled several cases of our ancestry holding incredibly advanced knowledge, which ‘they had no means to acquire thousands of years ago’ according to written history.

The case of the ancient African tribe of ‘Dogon’ and their astonishing advanced astronomical knowledge of the Sirius star is one such mysterious paradigm.

It’s the story of two French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen and their journey along the Sahara Desert towards the discovery of the Dogon tribe practicing ancient sacred astronomical knowledge passed over from generation to generation over centuries through rituals, which we came to learn about only in the 19th century.

Sirius and its discovery in recent history

Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, is the brightest of the stars which appears across the southern sky on winter nights. The word Sirius is derived from the Greek word “Seirios” which means “glowing”.

Although Sirius appears to be a single star to the naked eye, the star system actually holds two identical stars – the Sirius A and Sirius B. Sirius B is quite small in comparison to the star Sirius A, famous as the Dwarf Star . It is also so close to Sirius A that it’s nearly impossible to perceive it as a binary star system having two consistent stars with the naked eye.

American astronomer and telescope maker Alvan Clark observed the Sirius B star for the first time in 1862. As he peered through the largest telescope at the time, the astronomer spotted a 'blunt point of light' around the Sirius A star, which was later found to be 1000 times brighter as compared to its pair. However, it was not until 1970 that this tiny star was captured on camera.

Now let’s focus on the incredible story that anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen have to tell us.

The Dogon tribe

In 1946, renowned French anthropologist Marcel Griaule, who had decades of experience in Africa, along with his colleague Germaine Dieterlen launched a study on four related African tribes who lived in the southern parts of the Sahara desert. In particular, they conducted extensive research on the Dogon tribe based in central Africa.

The Dogon people of what is now the Republic of Mali is assumed to have originated in Egypt. According to anthropologists, the tribe then moved to Libya and settled there for a brief period before moving to Bandiagara in Mali in the between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The city of Bandiagara later became renowned as the land of Dogons.

Dogon people during a performance of an ancient ritual

Ethnographers Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen continued their study with the Dogon tribes for four long years. As a result, the anthropologists were able to inspire such confidence that four of the ‘head priests’ of the tribe or the ‘Hogans’, as called by the Dogons, were persuaded to reveal their most secret rituals that had been in their practice for centuries.

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Their rituals and spiritual beliefs involve many of the essential aspects of modern scientific knowledge regarding the Sirius A star and its companion, which could only be obtained with powerful telescopes, coupled with sophisticated scientific theories on cosmos.

The ritual and incredible astronomical knowledge

The Hogans drew some patterns and symbols on the soil to describe their rituals which contained secret knowledge of the universe that they inherited from their ancient ancestors. The ancient knowledge was going to be proven incredibly accurate within some years.

Their focus was on the brightest star Sirius and its dwarf companion Sirius B, which was not discovered by modern scientists up to then. The Dogons called the Sirius B star ‘po tolo’. They also knew that it wasn’t visible to the naked eye and many of unfamiliar characteristics, which were yet to be discovered by the scientists.

In 1950, Marcel Griaule published an anthropological literature regarding the traditional beliefs surrounding the star Sirius held by the Dogon tribe of Central Africa based on their studies.

Several years after that, the Dogon rituals and knowledge that they held were detailed in a book 'Le Renard pale' (the pale fox), written by Griaule and his colleague Germaine Dieterlen. The book was published after Griaule's death in 1956.

In their books, the anthropologists argued that the knowledge of astronomy held by the Dogons was no less astonishing. They said the Dogons knew that the dwarf star of Sirius A was actually white in colour and was the smallest astral entity in the nearby cosmos.

Dogon community performing a ritual

Marcel Griaule said in the book, “They also knew that it takes 50 years to complete a single orbit around Sirius A and that the orbit is not circular but elliptical to the movement of all celestial bodies, and they even knew the exact position of Sirius A within the ellipse.”

The Dogons also have incredibly precise knowledge about the density and composition of the star Sirius B. They asserted that Sirius B was the heaviest star in the nearby vicinity with a great density and an extraordinary gravitational force. A few decades later, the scientists were shocked to find the astronomical knowledge held by the Dogons to be accurate. They found that the density of Sirius B is indeed so great that a cubic metre of its substance weighs around 20,000 tons.

In the Dogon cosmological practices and concepts, as reported by Griaule, the concepts of duality and twins are quite significant aspects. Many important symbolic and cosmological aspects of the Dogons are reported to be attributed to this dual presence of beings, driven by the cosmological structure of the Sirius Stars.

Ethnographer Germaine Dieterlen later disclosed that the ancient African tribe also has profound knowledge of our own galaxy, the Milky Way and our solar system.

French anthropologist Marcel Griaule examining an artifact

“They knew that the planets revolve around the Sun as well and they knew very well that the Earth is spherical and it’s spinning on its own axis,” Germaine Dieterlen said.

She said while explaining the rituals and knowledge hidden within it, the Hogans drew the halo that surrounds the planet Saturn. It is impossible to detect the halo with the naked eye. The ancient African tribe also has a precise knowledge of Jupitar having four predominant moons of Jupiter.

According to the ancient knowledge of the Dogon tribe, our galaxy Milky Way is spiral shaped, a fact that was not even known to astronomers until this century.

So the question remains as to how could an ancient tribe in Africa learn such sophisticated knowledge regarding a star that we discovered years later. What is the real explanation for the Dogon Sirius lore? The knowledge they shared by the Dogons came into our discovery several years after the two French anthropologists conducted the study.

The Dogon people themselves refer to a primitive local legend regarding the source of their incredible knowledge. According to the legend, thousands of years ago an advanced race called the ‘Nommos’, which means an ugly amphibious being, came down to earth from an unknown star.

The Dogons claimed to have acquired the knowledge from the Nommos, which is not possible in reality. But, how could we refute the claim when the knowledge that the Dogons acquired is incredibly accurate and scientifically proven years later?