Here is a list of Real World archaeoastronomical sites that can be used in your campaign whether it be set in the real world itself or whether you want to get ideas when the stars are right.
Karahunj (Zorats Karer), Armenia - ancient astronomical observatory that has solstice alignment stones.
Metsamor, Armenia - large metal foundry that has stones aligned in an astronomically significant pattern.
Ngaut Ngaut, Australia -lunar calendar.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Australia - rock engravings that have astronomical connections.
Tiwanaku, Bolivia - Pre-Columbian site that has giant stone monoliths and a semi-subterranean temple.
Amazon Stonehenge, Brazil - 127 granite blocks, in a circle in an open field, with at least 1 block aligned with the Winter Solstice.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia - A temple representing the home of the Hindu gods, but facing west instead of east, indicating it may be a funerary temple.
Phnom Bakheng, Cambodia - A series of towers, with the center tower representing the axis of the world and the 108 smaller ones representing the 4 lunar phases.
Abu Simbel, Egypt - Twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the sun's rays come in and light up a sculpture on the back wall, but fail to light up the image of Ptah, a god connected to the Underworld.
Great Pyramids, Egypt - The oldest and largest of the 3 pyramids of Giza.
Nabta Playa, Egypt - large basin that became a lake, was then found to be home to many archeological sites, including a number of sacrificed cattle buried in stone-roofed chambers, indicating a cattle cult operated there. Their calendar circle, which is about 1000 years older than Stonehenge, is perfectly aligned with the Summer Solstice.
Cham de Bondons menhirs, France - The largest concentration of standing stones in Southern France has 150 menhirs and 30 burial mounds, also making it the 2nd largest concentration in Europe, second only to the one in Carnac, France.
Carnac, France - Often called the Grand Menhir Brisé, it sports more than 3000 standing stones, all in perfect lines.
Goseck circle, Germany - This "German Stonehenge" consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 meters (246 feet) across and two palisade rings containing gates in defined places. Historians believe that it was used to calculate the movements of the heavens.
Jantar Mantar, India - is an dial for measuring the time of day, correct to half a second. It can also measure the declination of the Sun and the other heavenly bodies.
Brú na Bóinne, Ireland - a complex of Neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures, some dating from as early as 35th century BC, predating the Egyptian pyramids.
Newgrange, Ireland - At the winter solstice, for 17 minutes only, the rising sun shines down a long passage and into a special chamber where it illuminates just the chamber floor.
Gilgal Refaim, Israel - ancient megalithic monument in the Golan Heights containing 42,000 basalt rocks arranged in circles. The outside circumference is about half a kilometer and it was probably built during the Copper Age (about 5,000 years old).
Mnajdra, Malta - a series of 3 temples, the lowest temple is astronomically aligned so that on the vernal and the autumnal equinox sunlight passes through the main doorway and lights up the major axis and on the solstices sunlight illuminates the edges of megaliths to the left and right of one of the major doorways.
Chichen Itza, Mexico - the caracol is theorized to be a proto-observatory with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events, specifically around the path of Venus as it traverses the heavens.
Dzibilchaltun, Mexico - During the Spring equinox the sun rises and shines directly through one window of the temple and out the other.
Teotihuacan, Mexico - containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas, its urban grid is aligned to precisely 15.5º east of North. Because the sun rose at that same angle during the same summer day each year it could be used to calibrate a sense of time, or as a marker on when to plant crops or perform certain rituals.
Xochicalco, Mexico - The observatory is a cave modified to allow study of the movement of the sun. From April 30 to August 15, the sun shines into the cave and at specific times the beam of light falls directly through the octagonal chimney showing the image of the sun on the floor of the cave.
Buena Vista, Peru - also called the "Temple of the Fox", the observatory is located atop a small pyramid, and is aligned to mark the summer and winter solstices.
The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo, Peru - This coastal location marks the rising and setting of the sun.
Cusco, Peru - The region is filled with ruins that include the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun. And in 2006, researches discovered that Cusco has the highest ultraviolet light level on Earth.
Intihuatana stone of Machu Picchu, Peru - one of many ritual stones in South America, it is arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. Also is called "The Hitching Point of the Sun", it was believed to hold the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the sun stands almost above the pillar—casting no shadow at all. This was probably used as a calendar.
Nazca Lines, Peru - a series of geoglyphs created by removing the common reddish pebbles that cover the stark white earth, creating lines and shapes. The area has hundreds of figures, including simple lines to spiders, monkeys, and lizards. The largest ones are over 200 meters across. One theory proposes that the images were constructed so that gods in the sky could see them.
Almendres Cromlech, Portugal - has 92 menhirs of different sizes, which are arranged to orient to the 2 different equinox directions. One stone was cut flat and then divots, or dimples, were added - perfect for placing smaller rocks for finer measurements.
Arkaim, Russia - This site was compared with Stonehenge by archaeoastronomists. The findings indicate that Arkaim could follow slightly more items.
Ale's Stones, Sweden - 59 large stones create what looks like a ship in the ground, but the stones have been positioned according to the 365 days of the year and the 24 hours of the day.
Gotland grooves, Sweden - 3,600 semi-circle grooves were created in the bedrock of limestone and other stone formations on the island of Gotland. It is speculated that priests could have marked the position of the moon at certain dates.
Callanish Stones, United Kingdom - A circle of standing stones that marks the position of the midsummer moon.
Maeshowe, UK - aligned so the rear wall of its central chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice.
Stonehenge, UK -
Woodhenge, UK -
Chaco Canyon, United States of America - located in the northwest part of New Mexico, the buildings are aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles and there is a petroglyph called the "Sun Dagger".
Game and Story Use
- If you need a real world location where ancient worship of the sun, moon, stars, or gods in the sky took place, this list will help.
- Perhaps all of the Standing Stone locations are linked and were created by the same force?
- What if aliens used these sites as informational markers, like reading street signs when your lost and then finding that street sign on your map - "Oh hey, this is the planet with a large monkey and a bunch of concentric circles, do you see that on our map, dear?"
- Archaeoastronomical Sites are interesting locations for scenes.
- In the modern era, they're a place where PCs might not be so casual about collateral damage, which can add some interesting tension. A fight scene at Stonehenge (or its ilk) will result in some players pulling their punches to protect cultural monuments, while others might glory in the destruction they could cause.
- In games with magic and the supernatural, such locations might have powerful auras or significance.
- The Genius Loci of such places might be very strong.