While GPS technology is relatively new, navigational aids have been around for centuries. In a new study, Jarome Vahai explains how structures from ancient civilizations performed some of the same functions as the modern Global Positioning System. Both ancient and modern navigational aids perform four main functions: telling time, measuring circumference of the earth, pinpointing location on earth and identifying location during travel.
In ancient times, Egyptains built pyramids and monoliths as navigational tools. In other locations, societies built large structures for navigational purposes including Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Stonehenge in England and more pyramids in China. Many of these landmarks still survive today, but serve as tourist attractions as opposed to actual navigational devices. These landmarks from days gone by were also used for marking the summer and winter solstice along with the four functions described above.
Vahai presented these findings on ancient GPS at the 2011 Stanford Honors Research Symposium. In a press release about the symposium and his study, Vahai explained, "Early civilizations thought the same way we think now. We use GPS devices to locate where we are and how to get to other places - and so did they." Additionally, Vahai commented, "These ancient structures were lasting landmarks that told people where they are located in relation to other parts of the world."
Vahai's study also discussed how the Giza pyramids and shadows were used to calculate the Earth's circumference. These markers lined up with other structures across the globe plus constellations and even other planets. The alignment of these structures proves that these early civilizations knew the Earth was a round, turning planet.