People both modern and ancient have long known of the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a small collection of stars in the constellation Taurus.
But this famous assembly could point the way to the world’s oldest story, one told by our ancestors in Africa nearly 100,000 years ago, a speculative new study has proposed. To make this case, the paper’s authors draw on similarities between Greek and Indigenous Australian myths about the constellation. But one expert told Live Science that similarities in these myths could be pure chance, not a sign they emerged from a common origin.
The Pleiades are part of what astronomers call an open star cluster, a group of stars all born around the same time. Telescopes have identified more than 800 stars in the region, though most humans can spot only about six on a clear, dark night.
Yet cultures around the world have often referred to this constellation with the number seven, calling them the “Seven Sisters,” “Seven Maidens” or “Seven Little Girls.” This head scratcher has puzzled many scientists, such as astrophysicist Ray Norris of Western Sydney University and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Astronomy and Space Science in Australia.