The Dogon tribes of West Africa held secret their most sacred tribal rituals until the 1950's when two French social anthropologists gained confidence enough to live with and research them. The Dogons posess a body of knowledge that is "astounding in its accuracy of detail, including specific information only recently accessible to modern science... a knowledge dependent on physics and astrophysics." according to Robert K.G. Temple, author of The Sirius Mystery.
Most strikingly is the Dogon's traditional agrarian/ social-type calendar. Actually, it's quite non-traditional in that its approximately 60 year cycle is based neither on the Earth's rotation around the Sun (as is our Julian calendar) nor the cycles of the Moon (a lunar calendar). Instead, the Dogon culture centers around the rotation cycle of a white dwarf star (in Western astronomy called Sirius B) which encircles the primary star Sirius A every 50 - 60 years. Sirius A is known by astronomers as the brightest star seen from planet Earth. Sirius B is invisible without the use of high powered telescopes. It's existence was captured in a photograph taken at the United States Navy Observatory in 1970.
The Sirius Mystery describes in detail the customs, traditions, and source of knowledge of the Dogons. Dogons have celebrated their customs for hundreds and hundreds of years which can be determined by numbering the ornate costumes and relics that their leaders prepared for their great festival held once every 60 years. With several extant masks in various stages of decay, researches have determined Dogon traditions to be well over a thousand years old. (The Dogons claim a considerably more ancient history than that.)
How those Dogons are able to see that doggone star is a serious mystery to me! It's something I wonder about!
And if you care to check the evening sky especially in the Autumn through early Spring, you'll be able to see the constellation Orion. Follow the three stars in Orion's Belt pointing downward to the left -- that's Sirius A. So, where's Sirius B? You can't see it! Then, you just might do some serious wondering how the Dogons knew all about it, too!
Check out The Los Angeles Central Library
Other Books about the Dogons
A Sudanese Sirius System, by M. Griaule and G. Dieterlen
Et les liaisons sur le sujet:
A photographic essay of the Dogons
Thanks to Terry (from Long Beach) for finding this JPG of Orion!
The Dogons of West Africa
Une Exposition Africaine
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